Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back in the Saddle


When you're riding a bike using no hands, missing a finger doesn't matter.
The newest conquest in the world of amputation recovery is actually riding a mountain bike on an actual mountain bike trail! Sure I'd jumped on a bike or two within the past couple months but it was only for little test rides and only on pavement. This of course excludes the incident that occurred after I'd changed the inner tubes on Brea's bike, forgot to re-engage the brakes, took it for a quick sprint down my street, realized I couldn't brake, and then wove back and forth up hill and on some grass to slow down and stop. We're excluding that. No, this time my neighbor, friend, and biking enthusiast Joe let me join him and some other friends at a trail I'd never been to before. After realizing after the fact that my tires needed inflation and my chain desperately needed some lube and stretching, the bike was set, but was I?

Heading out on the trail one sensation struck me as odd. While navigating down a rocky portion on a slight curve, the bike was needing to be controlled pretty heavily to stay on course. As my grip tightened, one of the rubber nubs dug into the bundle of nerve terminations where my finger used to be, causing a rush of feeling that conjured the muscle memory of my finger for few moments. It just felt like the finger was there and tingling in a strong, but not painful way. That may have also primed me for another realization. Apparently I used to use the middle finger to rest on the brake lever in terrain like that so that I'd be able to maintain maximum grip on the handlebars while still having a method to ease on the brake as needed. In order to achieve that now, I'm relying more on just my little and ring finger with the pointer reaching for the stopping device. When your bike is wanting to jerk around, grabbing the brakes accidentally (and full force) has a high likelihood of flipping you over the handlebars, and you are relying on some digits not used to the responsibility, it can make a fellow nervous. Thankfully, no actual disaster occurred and those obstacles were navigated without incident.

It was about a 5 mile course and that was about all my legs could handle at the pace I was attempting. Even though I'd been able to swim a bit, my cardio wasn't quite there and probably more importantly, my legs had been on vacation from that sort of activity for too long. That said, it was a great start!

That ride led to discussion of other opportunities and Joe mentioned a place just north of our neighborhood that we could actually just ride to. I checked it out and headed out there Monday and was very pleasantly surprised. It wasn't anywhere near as technical as trails we have been used to but it is a good place to just ride and it's close which is a huge plus. Since it was a scouting ride, I had my camera and took a few pictures along the way. I think I found a few places that will be great for portraits when the opportunity presents itself.

So I am back in the saddle, however unfit, and ready to ride! It had been too long...

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