Tuesday, May 01, 2007

hearkening back to days of yore...

...when i was majoring in English/journalism. that's right, cats, i used to write. a lot. okay, okay, usually about more interesting stuff than you've been finding in this here blog.

anyway, i entered Trek bikes' contest thingie for women who ride. why they should pick me in 500 words or less. here it is. :-)

The Art of the Timid Descent

I, for one, have grown tired of listening to cyclists and triathletes bandy about numbers in the high forties when discussing their fastest descent speeds. They casually write off their superior descending skills. They know full well that lesser cyclists are secretly in awe of the psychotic speeds they manage to attain while slaloming their way down roads with more hairpins than your granny’s church-do.
Perhaps the cycling set sees a screaming descent as a mark of superior handling skills. Possibly, they see it as a sign of that forceful, powerful, can-do, go-forth-and-conquer attitude that we, as Americans, prize so highly.
I beg to differ.
I am a timid descender.
As a reluctant roller, I have been gifted with keen senses. I have some of the most “interesting” bike handling skills you will ever see. My timid descents have given me some of the greatest appreciation for the sport of cycling.
My sense of personal safety has been honed to an edge by a near paralyzing fear of death. At any given moment, I am thinking about the fact that there is very little between my tender flesh and the pavement--save a thin layer of overpriced spandex. When faced with a 12% downhill grade, I’m liable to besmirch my chamois. To me, every blind corner hides a drunken maniac piloting a runaway Mack truck. Every shaded pothole goes straight to Shanghai.
My bike handling is second to none. I can roll through a hairpin turn at 3MPH and still stay upright! I have figured out how to ride with my butt entirely behind my saddle. You can identify me by the smell of my brakes and the plume of smoke trailing behind me. Shake my hand—your fingers might crumple under my steely grip, cultivated by long, careful hours of steady brake application.
I can never make up any speed on the descent. As a result I have become a fairly proficient climber. I would rather grind my way uphill for 10 miles hoping to stumble across an escalator or cable car than turn around and let gravity have its way with me.
I have found that my timidity has served to heighten my appreciation of my new life as a cyclist. I roll merrily along with plenty of time to check out the scenery. I give myself plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of life, and other important questions. Is God a man or a woman? Aluminum or steel? Who invented liquid soap, and why? Who really needs a Hummer?
Finally, being a timid descender has given me room to improve. I defend my right to creep slowly down hills, but I don’t plan to do it forever. In truth, I love descending. Someday I hope to be able to carve a line like no other down the road that torments me. Until then…you’d better believe I’m checking that speedometer at the bottom of every hill!

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