Mile 19227

There are questions you learn to hate.

Or rather, there are statements that are made to you that you learn to despise or feel apathetic towards. Ask any vegetarian/vegan about their protein and most will enter into laborious process of explaining how they do in fact eat plenty of protein. It is an instant trigger to annoy them. Frankly, it is highly understandable. Sure their reaction may seem rehearsed, but that is because they have had to say it to any person who attempts to discuss protein intake with them.

Luckily, I’m not going through that. I get a lot of people questioning why I went vegetarian and a lot of people trying to question me on how well I don’t happen to stay with it. That doesn’t annoy me. I am a self proclaimed bad vegetarian.

Yet, the constant disparaging comments about being a cyclist happens to be  eating at me and its getting under my skin.

Well, I guess I should start with where it all comes from. Since I started with the cycling, I have had no end of people asking “When will you get a car?” or “Oh shit, I couldn’t do that in terms of mileage. How do you manage?” My personal favorite is when somebody actually tries to prove why cycling is bad, asking about if I had to take kids somewhere or pick up a piece of furniture.

I often would ask how often were they picking up kids as a single adult, or moving a couch. And would they try to move that couch in their tiny little sedan?

Normally that was enough to shut them up.

Since moving to Ohio, the focus has changed. Since my bike landed in the state and I had the ability to slap it all back together again, I have had little comments about me not knowing what I was in for. Traffic was going to be the death of me, what would I do when it rains, what about when winter comes. Winter is coming after all.

I tried being normal about the questions. I mean, honestly, Ohio drivers are if anything too cautious. Like they drive the speed limit. No joke. They drive the fucking speed limit. Which feels incredible compared to what I am used to. Not a single soul in the state of Florida actually drove speed limit. It was always ten miles over at least. And that was the way things were.

Traffic here is too cautious, they are too considerate, too passive. I am used to having to act and react in order to travel from point A to point B. Yet that seems to have shifted. I’m used to having to dodge traffic, to dash through intersections. Relying on my skills and ability to play in traffic and make it out alive. If anything it is a miracle that I was able to ride for as long as I had without a single accident.

Where as in Ohio, I was hit for the first time. My side was bruised from where I was clipped with an SUV mirror. It was the equivalent of a solid punch in the kidney, yet I lived. Hell, I rode home afterwards. That to me is a victory and statement to the difference between Ohio traffic and Florida traffic.

Mainly, it is comments about the weather. I rode through hurricanes, lightning storms, and rain so insane I was utterly blind. I mean, fuck. I have nearly been struck by lightning no less than 5 times, the last bolt lanced through the air within feet of me. I was blind for a solid 30 seconds before I was able to continue riding home, cursing the heavens the whole way.

So I may bite these words, but I’m stubborn enough to ride the bike through insane weather. Snow, winter, fuck it. I will Survivorman the hell out of it.

Since I I have moved here I have had so many questions like that. If I thought I could keep this going and if I could go the distance. I will and I have thus far. I mean Friday, my wheel had a couple of spokes loosen completely to the point where the wheel was about to explosively potato chip on me (that is a bad thing, by the way.)

It hasn’t all been negative.

Sorry to be ranting, but the point is… At where I work, I get some descent questions about the bike and what I am doing. People seem interested in it. Most of it I feel reflects their interest in what it is like to have somebody with my resolve for this. I am stubborn and a bastard about it, yet it is interesting to the peanut gallery out there. It is interesting to those watching it.

Namely, we had a luncheon for the staff at the church. It was a nice way to end up sitting down and over a good meal, just discuss things. Afterwards, I was running out the trash from the event and the man whom I had sat across from and chatted to in passing decided on striking up a conversation about stuff in general. Again, he asked about the cycling and what all I do as far as that was concerned. He did ask about what I was going to do in winter (fuck, seriously, I’ve already ridden on icy roads and 21 degree weather. Fahrenheit.) I tried to pass by that question and told him I was just pig headed. I could be a real bastard about that question.

But then, he told me about his daughter out of the Houston, Texas area. That she was an avid biker (he meant cyclist. Bikers wear leather, see Super troopers for a great scene concerning that.) By avid, I mean she is going to be flying to the area with the bike on the plane. That is not cheap. It can be a solid hundred and fifty bucks just do so.

He also brought up how his daughter was a lovely girl, and yet she was scarred. That she wasn’t a tomboy and that she loves dresses. Despite that, her legs are apparently pretty well scarred.

Houston is known (to my knowledge) as a cycling hub, just like Columbus and Jacksonville. The idea of a cyclist having ripped up legs isn’t surprising. Let alone a cyclist from a major cycling hub who happens to fly with her bike, that she would have scarred legs is just not a shock.

And what does it matter.

I immediately tried to convince him to dispense with that point of view. I have scars, scars are the visual history of our skin. It shows what we have experienced and where we had come from. I walked over and showed him my arms (which are far less damaged than my legs.) I am scarred, and marked with every encounter with the road that I have had. I didn’t even mention the damage I had to my left hand where I tend to lose feeling in 3 of my fingers during long rides.

He responded well to that. Perhaps he was just resigned to the fact that there was no convincing me nor his daughter of anything different that what we know. He did ask about why cyclists shave their legs (I mentioned I shaved mine, and my scars are plenty there.)

I had to hide my smile.

I had been waiting for somebody to ask that question for quite a while now. Ever since I heard about the ins and outs of cycling culture, shaving your legs seemed to be something normal. Its just something you tend to do when you are a cyclist.

Like there is no boost in aerodynamics. You aren’t traveling faster/farther due to the drop in weight. Where as with swimming, there is a 3 to 5% decrease in drag and that adds up. In cycling, it doesn’t matter.

If it comes from somewhere, it is just part of the look. Triathlon cyclists and marathon cyclists typically competed in a range of exercises. It was part of a look they had for that (because you can’t reattach that hair for post swim sections,) so it was what caught on among the rest of the community. They (triathletes) are the top of the field for us and it is to them we look to for guidance.

So to go by QI’s standards on this, “I don’t understand it. He has a well trimmed bush but designer stubble.” Honestly, go watch QI. It is incredible, British, and incredibly British.

There is another side to it. A more morbid one.

Injury.

No really, injury is the forefront of why I now tend to shave. its hard to avoid ripping up your skin. Humans are fragile creatures. Skin is even more so. It takes less than a pound of pressure to hurt us, and in cycling that is incredibly clear. Being able to shave my legs means I’m not worried about wrecking the bike. I can do so and get cleaned up.

I mean, wrecking the bike is always a concern. However, I no longer fear having to dress the wound or worry about adhesives. The bandages won’t hurt. They stay cleaner, better attached. That alone is a massive reason.

Still, I was grateful for the conversation to go in a direction about cycling and an honest sense of curiosity behind it. It was refreshing, as well as unexpected. As such, it happens to be questions like that I would prefer to answer, not the mundane ones I am always subjected to.

Take it as you may, and I hope you have a pleasant night.

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