The First Ride Back

cooke
Cookie, crumbled. Photo: Sirotti/Cycling Fans

It’s the ride you’ll do the most. The hardest ride you’ll ever do, too. You’ll do it so often that it should be easy, but it never is. Its frequency is such that it really should morph into all the other rides of its ilk, therefore negating the actual nexus of this necessary, evil ride. But it never does, it’s always stuck out there on its own, no matter what the duration between it and the next one is, could be months, could be only a week, but it’ll never leave, like that mate who stays for a couple of nights yet really should be paying rent after the first month, or at least offering a 20 for some food. This is the modus operandi of the First Ride Back.

As you get older, the FRB becomes more regular, unlike yourself. Jesus, my latest FRB really shouldn’t have qualified for its status at all, but such is the fickle nature of fitness at an ‘advanced’ age that just six days off the bike is enough to send one into panic, that the hard earned fitness is somehow leaving the body at a rate many times faster than it was acquired. Even with a pretty solid few months of riding under the belt, the effects of six days off, caused by an errant finger meeting a spinning disc rotor, sounded a death knell to me. A couple of opportunities came and went, adding to the mental mire as well as the (mainly perceived) physical one. Jumping back into the Tuesday night jaunt brought the daunt. Begging for hostilities to secede always falls on deaf ears, and plea bargaining for no hills is as well received as a stripper at Sunday school.

I recall reading an article by recently retired Baden Cooke some years ago where he spoke of his own FRB, an annual rather than weekly or monthly occurrence for him. Unlike mere mortals, he would no doubt have a pretty good base to draw upon, and even after a month or two off the bike (and probably partying hard as Cookie was known to do), he would still have the kind of condition most of us could only dream of. Yet he suffered the same mental and physical barriers as a normal rider does, but with a distinctly different approach, namely a 300km ‘hell ride’ from which he’d return some seven hours later with a sense that his season was now ready to start. A 50km jaunt with a couple of efforts thrown in seems almost laughable by comparison, but mirth never seems to enter the equation until the bike is racked and the celebratory beer is poured.

By the conclusion of the FRB, everything always seems much better, no matter how badly you’ve suffered, how far out the ass you were, what portion of your lungs you’ve coughed up. Just when you think you could take no more, the surVival instincts kick in and wring one, two, three last droplets of the Essence of V from within, and gives pride a swift kick up the ass for good measure. The next day you are renewed, and can’t wait to do it again.

Just not any longer than a week away, ok?

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79 Replies to “The First Ride Back”

  1. The thing I hate about the FRB is that your memory is of your prior form so you go out at that level and suffer accordingly.

    I’ve had too many FRBs lately:

    after 5 weeks off after a bike related back injury – the VMH kept dropping me for the first few Rides back;

    after a week long conference with little exercise, too many carbo loading breakfasts, and too many malted recovery beverages;

    Currently on 2.5 weeks holiday in Vietnam and Phuket, again with exercise, food and booze excess. The VMH is getting toey too and is currently out on a run (FRB), first time since November.

    This one is a double negative because if we weren’t here we’d be riding for a week following the TDU in Adelaide.

    suffering will come at the end of the month.

  2. Seems I’ve had several FRBs the last few months. Gussying up the house to sell, parting out 26 years of living there, settling in with the VMW, and winter with its shorter days. Sunday’s ride felt like I had one lung due the cold I’m getting over. But still I look forward to those rides; many don’t understand the way we cyclists welcome the pain and discomfort for the benefits they will bring.

  3. Buy a bike shop, they said.  You’ll ride a lot more, they said.

    Now, every Saturday shop ride feels like a first ride back.

    Still, I wouldn’t trade it back for my old office job.

    Ever.

  4. Excellent.  My FRB after cancer surgery last year was massively cathartic – expunged the cloud of doubt and doom.  If only the fitness had not declined so drastically and swiftly.

  5. @withoutanyhills
    A fellow sufferer! Broke my hip on 29th Dec coming off on ice. Really struggling mentally with the inactivity and the long road to even getting on a bike again, let alone being fit. Desperately fighting the urge to move faster than the medical advice.

    I wish you the very best.

  6. @turbozombie must be something about the 29th as that was when I broke mine!! Although they told me the other day day that mine was actually only about 85% broken which may explain why it am now thankfully only on one crutch and have been given the all clear to get the turbo trainer out – although it is still bloody sore and will be so for another few weeks they said whilst the inflation from the op goes down. Still a while before I can actually get out on the bike though. I share your frustration of immobility. Wishing you all the best and a speedy recovery

  7. For those in the northern hemisphere on their FRBs, I believe it is an established fact that cold air is denser than warm air, therefore there is a good excuse  to look at your post-ride data and wonder why you were going slow – it was simply harder to go fast because of air density. Take comfort where you can guys, take it where you can . . .

  8. @Boltzmann

    Excellent. My FRB after cancer surgery last year was massively cathartic – expunged the cloud of doubt and doom. If only the fitness had not declined so drastically and swiftly.

    Wow, Glad you were able to have a FRB.  Stay well and keep the rubber side down!

  9. @wiscot

    For those in the northern hemisphere on their FRBs, I believe it is an established fact that cold air is denser than warm air, therefore there is a good excuse to look at your post-ride data and wonder why you were going slow – it was simply harder to go fast because of air density. Take comfort where you can guys, take it where you can . . .

    Now I’m really depressed.  I was taking the position that the more dense air put more air into my lungs.  Like how my vehicle runs better in cold/dense air, because its simply getting more air.  I thought the same would apply to my lungs….  I guess not enough to push through said dense air

  10. @wiscot

    For those in the northern hemisphere on their FRBs, I believe it is an established fact that cold air is denser than warm air, therefore there is a good excuse to look at your post-ride data and wonder why you were going slow – it was simply harder to go fast because of air density. Take comfort where you can guys, take it where you can . . .

    I always blame it on the fact that the cold air prohibits my muscles from warming up all the way, and the restrictive effect of all of the clothing I’m forced to wear, but I’ll add this on the the pantheon of excuses, too.

  11. Haven’t been on the road in two months due to the god-awful cold in Milwaukee. I’ve only been in the trainer in the basement.

    Now I find myself accompanying the VMH on a business trip to Seattle and Portland , with a week of temps in the 50sF.  And I have no bike.

    There is no justice in the world.

  12. when I havnt been on a bike in a while(which is far to often) I always prefer for that first ride to be on my MTB. cause sucking on a MTB is more fun than sucking on a road bike.

  13. I had a few FRB’s in the last year, and they don’t get easier.

    FRB after 2 weeks of no serious rides last might, though I did do some decent runs and some hill climbs.  Having a personal crisis, and being stressed and depressed, I was mentally struggling, but the body did OK. I felt like crap before I went out, and I fully expected to bonk after a few miles.

    Luckily, I have a marathon running boss who understands how valuable exercise is, and sent me home early with specific instructions to get on my bike.   It wasn’t too bad.

    I feel my fitness draining away at an alarming rate when I’m off the bike though, like most here.

  14. I had a few FRB’s in the last year, and they don’t get easier. 

    FRB after 2 weeks of no serious rides last might, though I did do some decent runs and some hill climbs.  Having a personal crisis, and being stressed and depressed, I was mentally struggling, but the body did OK. I felt like crap before I went out, and I fully expected to bonk after a few miles. 

    Luckily, I have a marathon running boss who understands how valuable exercise is, and sent me home early with specific instructions to get on my bike.   It wasn’t too bad. 

    I feel my fitness draining away at an alarming rate when I’m off the bike though, like most here. 

  15. Not my FRB but we arrived in Adelaide yesterday  to watch Cuddles go round in The Tour DownUnder.   A Decade ago my wife and I came to Adelaide cos we’d heard what a great and safe place to ride it was – and she got hit by a car ten metres after we started riding.  This morning I get up and ride from CBD to Glenelg beach…and get hit by a fucking bus! The Adelaide FRB – fraught with danger!

  16. @Boltzmann

    Excellent. My FRB after cancer surgery last year was massively cathartic – expunged the cloud of doubt and doom. If only the fitness had not declined so drastically and swiftly.

    I know the feeling.  Glad you’re still with us.

    Renal cell, 6 year survivor

  17. @seemunkee

    @Boltzmann

    Excellent. My FRB after cancer surgery last year was massively cathartic – expunged the cloud of doubt and doom. If only the fitness had not declined so drastically and swiftly.

    I know the feeling. Glad you’re still with us.

    Renal cell, 6 year survivor

    Prostate–2008. Gave me a new appreciation on what’s truely important.

  18. I used to refer to the season’s 1st 150k+ ride as ‘the rite of spring’–with the jersey as the vestment, energy drink as the sacred libation, and tire-on-tarmac sound like an ancient chant; guess I could add the lung-choking pollen of SE TX as an analog to incense.  Awaiting FRB post-hip breakage (best wishes to all other injured posters above)–expect dismay at  performance but elation at rolling on actual road again.  Up on the mag trainer for some short spins now, so that’s one step closer.  May your big rings resonate with great force.

  19. This past weekend was the first full cycling weekend after 3 1/2 weeks away due to a separated shoulder, a couple of cracked ribs, and a concussion (cycling-induced), and I celebrated my return with a long and purposefully-hard FRB with the club, an endless ride at 2C in dank fog.  My body feels beaten up, my legs were obliterated, my shoulder continues its dull, deep ache, and I’ve rarely felt better.  The FRB is always glorious, like a re-acquaintance with a long-lost lover.

  20. @withoutanyhills
    My luck was out. I snapped off the head of my femur completely and it shattered into pieces. OUT: Fred Whitton Challenge and Dragon Devil Ride. IN: Learning to walk again (actually that can wait until I am riding again).

    Glad to hear yours is less-bad, though no doubt still a major pain in the ass. Recover well!

  21. Grim…despite the weather being bloody marvelous, I’ve managed only sporadic sorties into the hills in the last couple of months. Dark evenings and psychotic drivers have killed my commuter miles and hi-test IPA has given birth to a Kaiser-gut.

    This Saturday, I shall suffer.

  22. @Mikael Liddy if I’d been in the V-kit the bus would have ended up face down in the gutter not me. Pissed off that we had to get back to Melbourne for work so missed Cuddles brilliance on the Corkscrew today. Robbie called it when he got onto the big cog before the top and dropped Porte like an amateur!

  23. Getting back on the plane this afternoon to come back from holidays. I’m fully prepared for the FRB:

    Generally been laying when not moving (typically on the beach lounge);

    Eating high protein and carb diet building up glycogen stores;

    preloading with malted recovery beverages;

    Got two sports massages from lovely Thai girls(?).

    what more can I do?

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