LA Bike Tour -- Men in Tights
"You're crazy," said my friend Jim when I announced that I will be joining the Los Angeles Acura Bike Tour. In retrospect probably I was but I was not alone in my madness.
As it was, on a chilly Sunday morning, more than 16,000 like-minded cyclists gathered infront of the Los Angeles Sports Coliseum to participate in the 13th Acura LA Bike Tour. A 23 mile bike ride that will take the riders in a circuitous route of Downtown LA along the path of the 22nd LA Marathon.
Way back in the Philippines, I was an avid cyclist logging in more than 30 kilometers every day and to my mind 23 miles does not seem that much. I even joined a cause-oriented group which biked from Manila to Cebu in three weeks to raise funds for children afflicted with the big-C.
But then again that was seven years ago when I was at the peak of physical condition. Fast forward to 2007. Now I have a beer belly and I have not been on a bike for quite some time.
So there I was at 4:30am with my mountain bike, camelback, spandex padded cycling tights, coolmax jersey, helmet, gloves and a lightweight jacket lining along with other cyclists waiting for the start of the bike tour. The official start of the tour was pegged at 5:50am but I wanted to be at the front of the pack since I know the dangers of being in the middle of a large group of mixed skill riders.
And a mixed group of riders it was that joined this year's tour. There were the Lance Armstrong wannabes in their colorful team uniform and lighweight road bikes, rugged mountain bikers and burly downhill fanatics with their dual suspension or hardtail bikes, and there were the casual cyclists in a mishmash of bikes ranging from tandem bikes to recumbents and even some with baby buggies.
Needless to say it was the greatest concentration of spandex clad people that I have ever seen.
Most of the riders, including me, were itching to start the tour since we were freezing in our next to nothing cycling wear. So after the long winded speeches and the ceremonial blah-blah, the fireworks went off signaling the start of the bike tour.
It was a pretty orderly start and the road rules were that you should be able to maintain a minimum speed of 9 miles per hour else you have to drop out of the course. In the physical state that I was in, I opted to do just that and coast along enjoying what LA has to offer. This was not a race after all but a chance to cruise Downtown LA's normally busy streets on a bike.
It was therefore no surprise when I systematically began to hear "on your left" or "stay your line", as we cyclists say to each other when we need to overtake, from the road cyclists and fitter riders. But to hear it from a girl on a store bought Barbie bike really riled me. Here I was in my fancy-schmansy custom built mountain bike being passed by an eight -year old girl. The nerve.
In my mind, there was really no doubt that I could finish the tour, but after a measly five miles, I began to doubt myself. I needed to push my speed up to 15 mph and I know I might bonk out from the exertion but I just can't bear the thought of coming in last and being passed by children.
Normally in pack riding you would need to latch on to a strong cyclist and let him cut air resistance while drafting behind a few inches from his rear wheel. I know at this time that I have to drop my normally anti-social demeanor and join a group but I can't seem to catch up to one. So I ended up jumping from rider to rider concentrating on their butts to catch a good draft, therefore missing the chance to see the beauty of LA's streets.
In fairness it was a scenic route especially when we crossed the 6th street bridge offering you a good view of the LA skyline. Fortunately it was downhill at this stage, freeing me from my frantic wheezing to enjoy the sight.
The bike route was fairly flat except when we hit Figueroa and 6th street where there was a steep climb. It was probably mile 12 on the route and by this time I was fairly gasping and my butt was pretty sore. I tried to climb that steep hill but I know that would be the end of me, so I ended up walking up the hill. I was not alone, so it kinda soothed my wounded pride.
By this time the streets were being filled with the early-bird spectators and performers for the LA Marathon. It was uplifting to hear them scream and cheer you on. Quite a break from "hey fatso move your butt."
Glancing on my bike computer I knew it was just a few miles to the finish line and when we reached the corner of Normandie and Exposition Blvd. I stopped hyperventilating.
In the end victory was mine as I crossed the finish line and received my finisher's medal after two hours of cycling. So thanks to you little girl in the Barbie bike that pushed me on to never quit.
Would I do this again? Probably but I would rather run and take my chance in next year's marathon.