Monday, August 8, 2011

Gain in Pain

The Inspiration
With pain there is gain, pedal to the first long trip on my bike; it all started on Deepawali 2010 when I decided to start cycling, and gifted me an ACT110 plus, inspiration to be fit @40. Starting a new sport @38 seems to be strange for many, whom I spoke with. With all the will and inspirational stories of cyclists in bike zone and other sites drove me to take a hit at it. My target was to do 50 Kms a week, many hurdles to break the will power; I would want to say it out here so it helps my fellow beginners and kind of adjust your form. I spent about 3 months of reading before I got on my saddle. So the form is absolutely important and I learnt it the hard way.
The form
The first challenge is your back and bum is not used to sitting on a road bike saddle, I felt the pain to the extent that I wanted to add it to the list of punishments in hell, along with frying pans. So a week into riding I am doing around 30-45 min rides I started to develop severe back pain, doctors advice stop cycling. Jee!, I just started. I take a break for two weeks, and use the two seeks to strength my back. I changed the position of my saddle, raised the handle and am back riding, two weeks into it, toe pain.
MRI, CT, X-ray, still my Ortho could not find the problem, then I found out it is a stress fracture under my left toe second finger. No more rides for a month. I understood what was happening, every time I used to stop my bike, I used to rest the whole weight on my left toe leaning the weight without dismounting from the cycle. Correction, even for a short stop get off your bike fully and stand firmly with weight balance on both legs with your fork across your  frame. Make sure you have the right frame size.
After these corrections in form, I thought, I am ready and let’s get back. Well, I wasn’t. Even thought I have read in many articles that I should not pedal using my toe, it happened I was doing that after realizing there was a tingling feeling below my toes that contributes to the stress fracture. One more correction needed, consciously move my toe forward to position in the right place on the pedal so that force is transmitted perpendicular to the toe ball that connects your toe to your leg. Make a mark on your shoe with a marker so it aligns with the center of your pedal.
The Body
This time I have settled down with a form that suites me. I have started with regular trips without much sweat. One day I tried to push a little harder and learnt that the form has nothing to do with your body and its ability to perform, it was a 15 Km ride with two bridges started after eating Adai a low carb breakfast in the morning. My first experience with bonking, your brain functions (your senses) but your body doesn’t, luckily, I was at a spot I could drink water and take some sugar and sit down.
Now to your check list, listen to your body, it cries out for attention. The most beautiful thing about bicycling is it relates to freedom synonymously. So I stared to take water breaks at regular intervals, stop to look around, hum a tune from a song to check my breathing pattern and confirm I am not panting.
Ok, now the body is getting used to it and the form is good, what else, let’s keep pushing. Now slowly I have started to believe it’s working, I can do cycling, I made some more minor adjustments, added a gel cushion to my saddle, added mud flaps, get those breathable jersey, Nike has them, you don’t feel that your jersey is sticking to your body.

The trip
At this point I can do 1 hr trips daily without any pain or strain, updates in  As always as humans, the question, what’s next?. A test to check your endurance, cadence, etc, etc..., a plan for a longer trip. I decided to do two hours; I have to do this really early in the morning, so went for some shopping, head light, tail light, energy drink (tang), and bourbon biscuits (yummy). Set my alarm to wake up at 4:00 am and I did, took 30 minutes to saddle up after a little bit of stretching exercise. Mugappiar to Periyapalayam, 40Kms. The roads are good until the Karanodai toll gate, I took my first break at Puzal 5 minutes, my second break 5 Km after the toll gate another 5 minutes. Wolla ! I reached my destination in an hour and fifty minutes. I thought I would put my bike in a bus and return to Chennai, well there was no such option. I was tired checked with the local share-auto, he was asking 500 bucks for 15 kms, I wasn’t going to pay him. I had my breakfast couple of idly and a dosa. With no option I decided to pedal back, the road was treacherous as the traffic has started and there was road work expanding the 15 Km stretch from Periyapalayam to the toll gate on NH5. I decided to find alternate means, and up front there was a tractor and trailer, I chassed it , passed it and asked for a lift!, I was in the back of the trailer holding my bike and sitting. Man it was one bumpy ride, my bike saddle felt like a pillow filled with Egyptian cotton with comparison to sitting on the trailer surface. They dropped me few Kms before the toll and I rode back home an hour and 15 mins. A total of three hours and a distance of 60 Kms. Reached home, had lunch, slept the rest of the day, never felt so fresh like this before recently.
The result
Decent endurance, good cadence and a huge confidence boost. Looking forward to 40, felt fit like the days in college.


  1. Naveen Anna, that was nice narration. You know what I had been through a similar exp when I went for a road trip to Niagara 5 yrs back. I agree with you on the first challenge (back and bum).
    Congrats!! All the best on your subsequent rides!


  2. Congrats on your first long ride, Naveen. The saddle soreness are something everyone will get used to over a period of time. I would suggest that you consider getting rid of the gel saddle cover and getting padded shorts instead. The gel saddle is not that great in terms of avoiding chaffing.

    Back pain and other issues would peek in if the bike setup is improper. If you're not comfortable with it yet, a bit more research on what is the correct seat height etc, might help. All the best ahead.

  3. Way to go Naveen. Certainly the "firsts" always have a lasting impression and when you blog about it so narratively, it truly helps other beginners understand the dynamics involved in getting back on saddle or starting afresh. Oh yeah, the trailer ride was the fun part. I've had an experince of such kind but not with a bike but it was a bone jarring ride in a tata 407.. Can never forget that.