Monday, August 24, 2009

Inspired to Ride, and NOT to Ride

In the last couple of weeks, my main riding buddy has pushed me to go faster in a couple of ways. He has his own bike here, a mountain bike with 21 speeds. He has full off-road tires, so the advantage of having gears is balanced by the rolling resistance of his tires. Last week he wanted to do sprints. We did several hundred-meter sprints on the back side of the ten-mile loop. I have a mild dust-induced throat infection, but had a great time. Yesterday he rode in the morning and was having trouble maintaining speed, so he suggested I take the half-mile-longer road near the IED training area and he would go straight past the air strip. The idea was I would catch up to him just before main post. Well he was feeling bad and I was feeling good so I caught him sooner, but that two miles gave me the exhilaration of the chase. He is going to be here toll April, so I should have someone to ride with three days a week for the rest of the tour.

Before the other story, a milestones update:
As of today I have ridden almost 4000 miles this year including 2100 miles here in Iraq.
I don't have an exact number here, but I am now over 150,000 miles since I started riding seriously in 1986, the year I quit smoking. Of those miles, 75,000 are since January 1, 2000. If I go back to racing there is a good chance I will increase my total miles to 200,000 miles within the next 7 years.

In our brigade is a young medical officer who rides an exercise bike incessantly. I asked her if she ever thought about riding on the road. She said she did, but that it is dangerous. I suggested riding here because bases are so much better than civilian life. She said she had thought about it, but then one day she was riding the bus and the bus pulled out in front of a bike and almost hit the bike.

At least that was the view from inside the bus. I was the rider on the bike. From my perspective, about half the bus drivers are South Asians who come from cultures with no tradition of chivalry. The traffic laws follow Darwin's rules. The bigger vehicle has the right of way. Bikes yield to everything. I dealt with this all over Asia. Here on base the bus drivers know if they hit a guy with ARMY across his chest they are gone and lose their job. But their instinct is to pull out in from of the little vehicle. So when they do it, I just keep pedaling. They back off, cursing me in whatever language they speak. But the more I do it, the less I have to do it. They get the idea that this is not Mumbai or Bangkok and buses do not have absolute right of way over bikes.

But from inside the bus looking down on the guy who is getting closer to the bus every second until the driver backs off, it looks scary. I did not try to explain anything to her or admit I was the guy. I just said that an exercise bike is fine for aerobic fitness.