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Bicycling – Now

Yesterday I wrote about my childhood and young adult life in outdoor cycling. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve done 30-40 minutes on a stationary bike more or less every weekday morning for several years. Along the way I’ve wondered whether this time on a stationary bike would improve my stamina on the real thing. But up until last October, all I did was wonder.

Last October found me in Monterrey California for the Internet Librarian conference. I had a bit of free time the last afternoon I was there, so I rented a bike for an hour. I would have asked for more time, but that’s when the shop closed. I was staying right on the water next to a bike path. So I took that path. There was great scenery. Sea lions, seagulls, pelicans and other birds were perched on the rocks I could see from the path. The sun was warm on my face and it did not take me long to reach the end of the bike path and switch to a coastal road with a bike lane. The biking itself was fabulous. The terrain was level and my pedaling was almost effortless. The shore changed from rocky harbor to sandy beaches with large weathered rocks coming up out of them. Birds perched on top and the waves crashed onto the rocks. I found a turn off and parked my bike for a few minutes, just glorying in the waves, the sea spray and the sun. Then I had to climb back on the rental back and return it to the office. Too soon in my view. But I felt so good about it that I decided that come next tourist season in Alaska, I’d rent a bike a few times and see how biking felt on my home ground.

So, this last Saturday found me at Cycle Alaska. I chose Cycle Alaska simply because it was the first bicycle rental off the Douglas Bridge. It was also a convenient place for my first target, Twin Lakes, about four miles from Cycle Alaska. I thought to start small in case stationary biking wasn’t that comparable to outdoor biking. The staff of Cycle Alaska were friendly and thoughtful. In addition to providing a helmet with the bike, I also received a bottle of water and a granola bar. I did a four-hour rental, their minimum, and then took the bike next door to an empty lot to shake it down and get a feel for the controls.

When I was satisfied I still knew what I was doing, I walked the bike across Egan, biked onto Glacier Highway and biked to Twin Lakes via a mixture of roads and bike paths. Juneau is considerably more hilly than Monterrey. There was at least one hill where I needed to dismount and walk up. But for the most part I was up to the task and reached Twin Lakes in about 25 minutes or so. I rode the Twin Lakes bike path with bright blue, sparkling water to my left and a residential neighborhood to my right. It was unusually sunny that day. I left the park, thinking I might just see how far I could get in two hours before I had to turn back. I passed the Pioneers’ Home and got about to Western Auto when I decided that riding somewhere pretty was better than sheer distance. At least today. So I headed back to the back and traced out the mile long Solar System walk about six times. My legs held up well, but the bicycle seat was starting to get to me. So I started back to Cycle Alaska. I got there with a sore backside, but otherwise ok. The trip to Twin Lakes itself was about eight miles round trip. Then I rode about another six miles riding back and forth on the Solar System trail. For me personally, a 14 mile ride was a good first real world outing.

What now? Now I wait for the next free day that I have that is also sunny and that I have the car for the day. I’m going to pick up a bike at Cycle Alaska, put it in my car and drive to Fred Meyer, one end of a bike path that ends at the Mendenhall Glacier – that will be a ten-mile round trip and I might see if I can do it more than once. I’ll try to figure out some extra padding for the seat.

If that outing is successful, I think the next step would be to go garage sale-ing for a bicycle. I just need a basic 10 or 15 speed. Given Juneau’s weather and my reluctance to ride in the rain, I don’t see myself biking a lot, so I don’t see a need to buy a bike brand new. But it would be nice if the scenery moved once in a while when I take feet to pedals.

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