WHAT

Classes nine to five – sometimes more. I could only get away at night. I did. I biked 20 to 30 miles a night. Portland has a 3.5-mile loop around Back Bay, no traffic crossings the entire way. I’d do 6 or 7 laps before I’d be bored stiff. Or I’d do the two-mile run between the highway and the Whaling Wall, back and forth, until I knew it like a room in my own home.

Then it got too cold to bike at night. I’d only go out during the weekends. Some days I’d cut class to ride through the inlands or circle the Cape. Then that got too cold as well, and I had to face that Hanno was hobbled for the winter.

I try going to the gym. And working on my thighs and calves particularly. But it’s hard fitting it into a law student’s schedule. I got plenty of walking done during my two weeks in Europe, but during the month of finals before that? Not so much.

Just today I set up one of those little mounts that turn a bicycle into an exercise bike. It beats the bikes at the USM gym a thousand fold. I can do it in the quiet of my own home. Or better yet, loud – I can face the bike to the computer and watch torrented movies all exercise long. I look forward to using it. Every goddam day.

After all, I’m in training. This summer I am going to bike across the country. I have decided it. I am going to. Tire in Atlantic, tire in Pacific. All my own power. From sea to shining sea.

That is all I know about the ride. I want to cross the country. It’s rather arbitrary. But on the other hand – it’s there.

So why this decision then? Why not another novel? Why not another consulting gig? Why not a summer job? Why… bikes?

The answer, in short, is: law school.

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WHAT

And I did ride.

Boston is a fun town for riding. The Charles provides a natural buffer. You can ride from the Museum of Science to Brandeis entirely on bike paths, many of which are double-paths allowing for two-way traffic without passing. On that whole twelve-mile jaunt you’ll have to stop for walk signs maybe eight times. During the day there are few other bicyclists. At night, after dark, there’s not a soul – you can ride for hours and hours with nothing but the river for your company.

I lapped the length of the river over and over. I got better. Riding a good road bike is nothing like riding a hybrid. It’s not even like bike-riding. It’s more like running at 20 miles per hour. It’s like magic. Absolute magic. And Hanno weighs nothing, and turns on a nickel, and stops on a dime. Before too

One month after buying Hanno, winter came. I had to put him away for three months.

One month after spring came, I got run off the road by an ambulance. (On my way to my EMT class. #cambridge). Because I’d just been working in a hospital, my bruises got infected. I spent a month on Sulfa drugs to fight MRSA. No riding that month.

A few weeks after that… well, let’s just say there were complications and I had to have a few surgeries. Nothing major. Just… inconveniently located. Such that I required ALL THE PAINKILLERS EVER. Another month lost. And then another because, yeah, inconvenient location for riding.

Then I got in a good six weeks of riding. It was glorious. I rode the Minuteman Rail Trail to Concord and back. I rode up to Salem and down to the South Shore. I rode through Boston at night, the north end, deep southie. I felt grand.

A few days later I went rock-climbing, missed the first hold and blew out my ankle. I didn’t tear my ACL entirely. Just almost-entirely. Spent a few weeks on crutches. Fortunately bicycle riding is the best therapy for ACL injuries. So I was back on the bike.

One day I geared up, charged my GPS-giving phone, and set out to Worcester, 55 miles. I left a city behind me, rode, rode, and five hours later I rode into an entirely different city. It was a feeling I shall never forget.

A few days later I hit a tree-branch the size of a tree-trunk. No idea what it was doing on a bike path. Can’t imagine it hadn’t injured cyclists before. I went over the handlebars. As I was still clipped in, the bike came with me. I got the wind knocked out of me. But I walked away. Rode away, though I’d burst both tire-tubes (I always travel with two spares, and encourage every klutz to do the same). When I got home I saw I’d torn my shorts in one place and my shirt in two and at some point I’d gushed blood out of my forehead. Apparently endorphins are good painkillers. I showered off and went to bed.

I woke up in agony. It took me 8 hours just to get out of bed. Apparently I’d also cracked four ribs. I spent the next ten days basically confined to bed – which is what happens when your room is on the third floor of a walkup. Oy.

By the time that injury faded it was late July. I spent August riding my bike like a fool. I biked all over Portland, Maine, my new-old home. I biked to Kennebunk. I biked to Kennebunk and back. I set a personal record in biking 65 miles in a single day. Averaged about 12 MPH not counting stops. And only drank $20 worth of Odwalla protein smoothies… and 8 liters of water.

I was just starting to get good. Then school started.

WHAT

My first adult bike was a little Trek hybrid. It’s still in my mother’s garage. It served me well. During my spring between colleges – my ‘semester off’ – I started out in terrible shape. A mile out and a mile back was a lot for me. Then two miles. Then three, riding to Laudholm Farm in wells to walk in the chill of early spring. Then I’d go twice a day. Then farther. By the time I went off to the Shire I was riding maybe 15 miles a day. Didn’t know what I was doing. Riding a bicycle: you never forget because you never really learn.

I didn’t ride at all for years. Just went to the gym, mostly for the elliptical. Trapeze, firespinning: no biking. It wasn’t until I got to Boston that I eventually got a bike: an old off-brand hybrid, barely my size, cleaned up by a guy who just enjoys cleaning up old bikes. I used it to commute to work and back. Five or six miles each way. Before two months had passed it was dead. The rear cassette broke in half while I was in the middle the street. The wheel dropped right off, dragging, sparks. I took it to the local bike shop and asked how much it would cost to fix. They said they’d throw it out for me for free. RIP Bike 2.

At that point – flush with cash, as befits one who pays no rent – I decided to really invest in a bicycle. I’d never Really Invested in a thing before. In anything at all. But I figured, anything worth doing is worth doing right. And the righter I did it – the more I spent – the more I’d feel obligated to do. If I bought an expensive bike I’d *have* to ride it. Get into a bit better shape. (Dating a lovely depressive is no way to get physical activity. And I’d done it like three times in a row.)

After much deliberation I settled on a cyclocross bike. It would allow me to ride on pavement but also on the sand and gravel paths which ring the Charles. It would also let me ride on Boston roads, which are really just awful any time of year and doubly so in winter. It was also that such a bike was on an exceptional sale – a year-old, during a clearance sale, plus my modest ability to talk a salesman down. This bike was carbon, with a lifetime warranty. SRAM shifters, gear-inches 28 to 140. Zertz inserts, which the newer model had discontinued. Also she was just pretty as fucking hell.

Specialized 2011 CruX Expert Carbon. I had her fitted, and brought her home, and named him Hanno. After the great explorer. After the discoverer of so much of the world. And because there’s just a total dearth of shit in this world named after Carthaginians.

then a week later I brought her back in to ditch her pedals in favor of Shimano ½s and a pair of MTB cleats. And a CamelBak MULE. And a Crank Bros 19 multitool and a MiniMorph pump and a pair of Knog Blinders and THEN OK LET’S RIDE.