I’ve recently been introduced to the Slow Ride Movement which is an extension of all things “slow,” apparently – the Slow Food Movement, the Slow Planet Movement, and so on and so forth. I understand the philosophy: look up and see where you’re riding, experience life and enjoy the journey. The whole idea of a “movement,” though, does seem a little contrived – but then, a little contrivance isn’t the worst thing in the world I suppose. I have, after all, been known to enjoy costuming myself in tweed and four-in-hands astride a war-era three-speed roadster. And given the ever growing complexity of day-to-day living, there’s much to be said for simplifying one’s world.
I just don’t know if I really need to enroll in a movement to do so. My own riding, for the most part, fits the bill in some ways. On the one hand, I don’t race or participate in randonneuring or any other competitive cycling events. Even though I may ride for longer distances, my rides are decidedly more casual – what I refer to as “JRA” outings (Just Riding Around.) One the other, I’m perfectly fine getting hot and sweaty and using the opportunity to exercise; this seems to be anathema to proponents of Slow Riding, which puzzles me a little bit.
Over the past couple days, I’ve felt particularly leisurely; perhaps I’d go so far as to categorize myself as lazy even. These early morning rambles would never be mistaken for training rides. Comfortably outfitted in a pair of mountain bike shorts, a loose t-shirt, and a cycling cap, the only impression I’ve made up the roadies has been the sudden twist of the head as they’ve passed me by, followed by a yell, “Hey! Where’s your helmet?” The tone was filled with reproach. (And how ironic that he nearly went down because he was looking back at me instead of where he was going.)
I stop frequently to make photographs, particularly on morning rides. When the light is still low in the sky, the world just looks different, the shadows are longer, the skies more interesting, the hue of foliage more intense. If I live too much by my cycling computer, these stops won’t take place. And it really is a richer experience being able to take notice of what’s going on around me. And so each ride really does tend to be a JRA outing.
At one point I pause for a drink and begin to compose a few images. As I contemplate what I see through the viewfinder, a train rumbles past. The skies, which at the moment are still quite dramatic from the storms of the previous night are threatening to clear up with the rising sun. A slight breeze comes up out of the west and the grass and shrubs begin to sway, dancing sinuously.
Occasionally I get asked to road test a product. For instance, it’s now been nearly five hundred miles of riding since the Brooks Cambium C-17 saddle I’m testing was mounted; so far I’m still pleased with the fit. Dismounting, I consider that I’ve tried various positions on the saddle, none of which have been seriously uncomfortable. It occurs to me that I find myself moving around on the Cambium much less than I do on the Regal I normally use on this bike. Like a comfy pillow, I’ve located the sweet spot and have planted my sit bones, maintaining that position throughout the course of the ride. I wonder if this is a good or bad thing – maybe I move my butt around, readjusting from time to time on other saddles to provide some variety: After all, I do this with various hand positions on the handle bars. And maybe, if I wasn’t testing the saddle in the first place, I wouldn’t be aware of the movement – or lack thereof – at all.
My initial reaction to the “look” of the Cambium wasn’t particularly favorable. I confess that it has begun to grow on my. (Or maybe I’m just experiencing a form of complacency, and I’ve grown accustomed to seeing it attached to my Boulder.)
Speaking of handlebars and hand positions, I’m also trying out a new pair of gloves. My previous pair of Pearl Izumi gloves have somewhere approaching 30,000 miles on them. And while I’m relatively certain the manufacturer never intended to get that sort of mileage out of them, they’ve formed to my hands and are quite a second layer of skin to some extent. Like a well-loved pair of worn shoes, I’ve grown rather fond of them.
So it is with a degree of trepidation that I don a new pair of Shock-Tek gloves. The design of these are supposed to alleviate the stress leading up to carpal tunnel syndrome. I rather like the look of this pair, the leather palms, padded with some sort of synthetic in strategically designed positions; the crocheted back reminding me of cycling gloves from my younger days. Truthfully, I don’t notice much difference in comfort from my beat up gloves, except when riding the tops of the bars: in a mountain bike position, the advantage is clearly felt in my palms. But riding the hooks, the drops, and the hoods seems to not change the pressure points on my hands at all. I wonder, though, if the advantage might be more pronounced on gravel or trail riding? It seems likely.
One benefit of JRA outings is, of course, that one tends to notice the details of one’s surroundings. For instance, on yesterday’s ride I was pleasantly surprised to note that the mulberries growing alongside the old road were plump and fat and ripe – at least ten days earlier than normal. I’m sure the roadies who passed by earlier were quite unaware of this tiny little summer miracle. I, on the other hand, made the most of this opportunity to enjoy a couple handfuls of nature’s bounty.
The leather palms of the Shock-Tek gloves, by the way, are not stain resistant to the juices of mulberries, blackberries, or raspberries. Refer to those stains “patina.”