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Use Low Gears

Posted by Bill Cochran on Apr 3, 2017 8:00:00 AM

When I felt the pop in my knee I instinctively knew things weren’t likely to be the same in my athletic career. My first love was running, but my orthopedic surgeon told me that I should start thinking about something else...when he suggested swimming I cringed and asked “how about cycling?” and when he said “yes, but use low gears” my heart lifted. I’d grown up riding around the neighborhood on my trusty Schwinn, and for transportation through high school, but college and cars had intervened. An odd accident was what steered me back onto the life path I’m still on to this day.

 

Col Du Tourmalet

Once I could walk without a limp I made my way into the shops in Madison to start exploring the whole world of cycling beyond the local sporting goods store, and man was there a lot to learn!! Thankfully the guys at Yellow Jersey in Madison were friendly and patient with my questions. 1983 was a simpler time in the bike world. No mountain bikes yet, no city bikes really, just racing and touring bikes, and not 100’s of sku’s from one brand. I bought what seemed like a great option for me, a beautiful burgundy colored Trek 520 complete with Huret derailleurs and Blackburn racks, and a Brooks leather saddle. I had zero experience at “real” cycling, and no mentors handy to teach me the ropes, so I struggled with all the new rider issues we all forget about. I can still remember how hard and uncomfortable that Brooks was on a tender set of sit bones, and when I started 10 miles was a long ride...

Luck would have it that I met some good folks at the local shop where I’d moved for a new job, and they helped me learn the ropes. Within a year I’d picked up a Fuji Opus III which was like a thoroughbred compared to the draft horse my Trek resembled. I found good shorts, and a Turbo saddle made long rides (not 10 milers anymore) far more comfortable, and I found the racing scene... When Greg LeMond won his first Tour de France I was well and truly smitten forever. Watching and reading about the European scene in Velonews and other magazines like Cycling was fuel for my addiction.

Within 2 years of that surgery I found I couldn’t imagine life without cycling... I owned 3 bikes, the third an early Fat Chance mountain bike purchased in Asheville on a trip to visit my parents, who thought I was crazy when I came back to the house bloody from learning some physics lessons about gravity...I was beyond hooked, and that was 33 years ago. Cycling has been my meditation, my therapy, my religion in many ways, and it has taken me to some of those places seen on the pages of magazines and on the TV.

I’ve managed the Pyrenees, the Dolomites, the Strade Bianche, and some of the cobbles in Belgium, and am “saving” the icons of the Alps for a future trip...all of this out of a  ingle surgery that at the time seemed like the end of something, but that truly was a beginning. You really never know where the journey will take you...

Topics: Experience

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