The Five Thousand Mile View

5,000 miles and counting. No more white sidewalls and no more white handlebar tape. (It'll look cleaner more of the time!)

5,000 miles and counting. No more white sidewalls and no more white handlebar tape. (It’ll look cleaner more of the time!)

Anybody who read my early biking days posts will understand my delight to have passed the 5,000 mile milestone. As a little reward, I bought new tires and will soon be riding with an upgraded computer.

What have I learned since 2013? A couple things.

Being in great shape is simply is not enough to keep up. I can build strength and endurance with all the leg presses, chin ups and top-to-bottom ski runs I want, but as serious biking season approaches, I know I’m still the most likely rider in my (sneakily) competitive group to bring up the rear on the flats and downhills. My new cycling computer will track my speed, time and  distance as before but will also capture heart rate (one less readout on the handlebars) and revolutions per minute. For RPMs, the guiding rule is that fast spinning combined with proper shifting (every hill is a learning experience) should  keep my legs fresher longer. We’ll see!

Distracted biking, oh no! Where fear once compelled me to stay focused on my surroundings, now I find myself processing work issues, mulling over a foreign language, or imagining some wonderful or difficult future. For me, this is actually a form of blindness.  I am constantly reminded that it’s bad for me because my day-to-day job tasks are all related to safety: I work with a global facility management group’s safety team; write and share corporate communications about health, environment and safety; and provide editorial support for incident investigations to determine the root causes of workforce injuries. Not following procedures and mental slips are the two prevalent human performance issues behind almost every accident.

The stoplight dilemma. More experienced road bikers assess an upcoming street intersection with the expectation that the light will stay green. If it’s not a high-risk gamble to ignore a yellow light or run a red, they’ll do it. Despite the negative of being dropped by whoever I’m riding with, this is one area where I do retain my feeling of vulnerability.  As a distracted rider already, I am much safer with the instant decision-making of having a rule to always follow: red means stop. And for me, yellow from about 3 car lengths back also means stop (easy to anticipate if you scan the cross traffic streets). Riding alone, that’s not a problem. But on group rides or even with one co-rider, if I decide to set aside my safety rules and give away that power, I may end up getting hit by a car.

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