Published: June 05, 2007

Crazy training

I’ve been cycling to work now for more than three years. I average probably more than four days a week, doing the 11 km journey, each way, year-round. I generally choose between three bikes. When it’s snowy or the roads are salty, I have a beater with an aluminum frame, which is just about dead after last winter. That Old Grey Mare ain’t what she used to be. When I’m lazy, I ride a very lightweight hybrid-type thing.

But the bike I normally ride is a very simple single-speed rig configured especially for urban journeys. This past weekend I took the plunge and converted it to fixed-gear, which means you have to pedal all the time, and you use your leg muscles to control your speed, something like an extra pair of brakes.

It’s a really efficient way to travel, but it is indeed a workout. Hills are no problem, but there’s one stretch along Bloor coming home that involves going down a fairly good hill for maybe a half-kilometre. This is the fastest part of my journey, and I have gotten it up to 67 km.

The thing is, on a fixed-gear bike, you have to keep pedalling. So going down this hill like I’m used to means that ones legs are flailing away like Michael Flatley on crystal-meth. But once you get going, there’s not much you can do but keep up.

Which reminded me yesterday of a mini-band event in Vancouver I traveled to in 1991 or so with the band I played with at the time. Those who heard this performance still speak of it, and I believe it may be legendary now.

The medley we played was probably the fastest in the history of pipe banddom. Six sets of fingers, 54 in all, were doing everything they could to stay on this crazy train to ignominy. If someone timed it, I’m sure the usually six-minutes 30-seconds selection was shorter than five. It was the weirdest sensation, something I had never been able to capture again until flying down that hill yesterday with no choice but to keep up.

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