Monday, June 22, 2009

Fairfax Or Bust

I get what I call "15 mile ass". I can always tell when we have hit the 15 mile mark by the stabbing pain in my left buttock. It goes away if I just get off the bike for a bit, but it comes back pretty quickly. There is no question that it is a combination of riding in a very upright position and a probable need for a different saddle, but I just put up with it. Of course, this situation means I frequently limit my riding to no more that 20 miles at a time, which for a utility cyclist in a compactish urban environment is not usually an issue.

Could this be the issue?

The problem with "15 mile ass" is that it makes longer, recreational group rides problematic, as most of them are a minimum of 20 miles. Needless to say, I don't go on them very often, and I end up feeling like I am missing out on the fun. I have done the Paradise Loop in Marin (20ish miles) on the Bat, and my butt hurt for 2 days after. So, I took the bike by the horns and decided to try a longer ride on a different bike- San Francisco to Fairfax (22 miles, one way) on my Xtracycle, the FUB (F---ing Ugly Bike). A bunch of friends were going, including Meli, and it was the perfect opportunity to introduce my 14 year old son, Cameron, to longer distance riding.

We started in San Francisco and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. This was the first time I have crossed on the west side of the bridge. The east side faces San Francisco and is usually jammed with tourists, so I am used to dodging people and having to be patient. The west side is only open at certain times, and only to bicycles. Needless to say, this is where the fast riders like to ride. We are not fast riders. We are slow and like to take things in. Many, many people whizzed past us, yelling "left!!!" repeatedly- some as a warning, but many because they wanted to make sure nothing and no one slowed them down (the man in the shot above was of the former variety).

Cameron's First Bridge Crossing

After crossing the bridge and getting through Sausaltio we hit more open road and settled in for the ride. I was amazed, 20 miles at this point and no nether region problems. Between a different saddle and more forward riding position, my backside was just peachy! My hands, though, were starting to let me know there was a reason I had dumped my road bikes and moved to a traditional upright city bike- arthritis, recent wrist surgery and various other issues that will never go away. "To hell with that!" I declared to myself. "I will ride!" (my inner voice is very much the swashbuckler).

Camino Alto Stop

We made it to Fairfax after several stops. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was still in one piece. Even my right wrist was willing to take a break from stabbing me. We walked around and enjoyed the festival for a bit (funny how much pot smoke is allowed at environmental events : ).

We will get by, we will survive!

Tree Man Coronation

Valet Is Full!

Coming home was a race against time. The ferry was leaving at 3:40 and we needed to be on it. There was no way I could make the whole trip home. The ride to Larkspur was balls to the wall the whole way ( especially after I threw my chain with just 5 minutes to spare!), but we made it. My friend Veronika and I talked about unemployment (pros and cons) while Cameron slept like the dead.

We should have had a beer!

The ride home was all about concentration- the last 6 miles was spent ignoring my flaming wrist, the kink in my neck and the not so dull ache in my knee. Cameron had to concentrate so hard he didn't notice the 50 naked riders that passed in the opposite direction! We pushed the last two blocks. But we made it!

My right hand hurt for days after that ride, but Cameron and I rode 43.71 miles in all. I have not done that in 20 years! It has taken 15 years to get past knee problems, neck issues, hand injuries.... but I did it. I can do it again with minor adjustments (OK, not minor. I need a good touring bike with just the right set up for me, but I like the hunt, so it will be fun). Half a dozen Doctors and Physical Therapists have been proven wrong, and I have recovered most of what I lost.

There is a lesson here- never let someone else limit you. The only way you will ever know what you can and can not do is through trying. In the last 20 years I have failed more times than I care to remember, but I kept trying. I am not finished trying, there is so much more to do. Injuries can be dealt with, compensations can be made.

15 Mile Ass can become 44 Mile Ass!


  1. Cheers to your swashbuckling inner voice! Looks like a fun ride with beautiful scenery.

  2. Wonderful narrative, really excellent stuff. Maybe a Brooks B66/67S for your regular bike--I think the one you're on is too narrow for upright riding, which might be causing your particular ass pain (pain in the ass?).

  3. Great start to the narrative. The words "15 mile ass" really pulled me in. I get "big toe cramps" from my clip-ins.

    Sounds like fun.

  4. Sara and I talked about doing the Fairfax ride! We had other things going on for the weekend, though.

  5. G'day

    Great read as always, With respect to your pain in the rear-end, I would personally get a proper bike fit done before replacing the saddle. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the problem is actually a fit/size issue, not a saddle specific issue.

    Good luck on sorting it.


  6. @YF- That would have ROCKED if you guys had been there! i am thinking of putting together a ride for sometime in July, maybe a Coast ride or something that we can all do together! Maybe when Jon is back in the saddle!

    Andrew- It's the saddle. I didn't have this problem until I changed the saddle. The original one is soooooo comfortable, just ugly as sin! However, I have considered taking the bike in to see if there are some adjustments that can be made. in the mean time, it keeps me from being an overzealous road warrior : )

  7. Okay. I am assuming from the photo it is a leather one ... have you broken it in yet? This can take a good 600 miles or more. My Brooks B17N is taking a lot of work to get it comfortable. In the meantime my rear-end bolts for the hills whenever I go near Froggie :)


  8. It is a Brooks. Bought it used. I have put in 1000+ miles on it. If I don't get it worked out soon, it goes on my son's new touring bike (he has a skinny butt : ) and I get a new saddle. I only payed $60 for it on Craig's List, so no biggie.

    I think Thom (2nd comment) may be correct and I need a wider saddle. Yuck.

  9. Kudos on never giving up. Some years ago I had a bit of an epiphany when I realized that healing never stops. This was a result of noticing that a 30+ year old injury was actually still improving, ever so slowly. It's all a matter of continuing to assist the process, and, as you say, never giving up. The folks who are stopped by this sort of thing are the ones who rely on doctors to heal them. Val

  10. @ Val- I love proving PT's wrong (I am one! : )

    @ all you saddle folks- There has been a 'duh' moment here at the bike barn. My seat is a sprung Brooks Flyer! Way too narrow for my backside : ) I am off for a B67 in Honey! That should fix the problem!

  11. Thats excellent! I know the feeling, well i guess i used to know the feeling, thats if I ever get feeling back in my ass again.I guess I now qualify as a "Hard Ass".
    My brother used to give me grief about having padding on my seat and shamed me into not using it. It was awful for awhile especially on long rides but I finally become accustomed to it.

    Keep those long rides going, because they generate great stories.

  12. admire your spirit and never giving up. i had a problem with my hands and wrist a year ago on my aluminum road bike and changed to a steel frame and it helped a lot and also buiding up muscle around your wrist helps. simple exercise with dumbbells and use your core muscles more so you can put less pressure on your wrists. i'm sure you will get a good touring bike and get proper fitting. just a little bit of exercise and stretching can make a big difference

  13. wow, i used to see that banjo guy at giants games way back when! must be the same guy.

    and my saddle issue was, hmm, how can i put it, like a 15 mile totally numb male specific area. crazy. makes for some unusual gyrations working that sucker out.

  14. Adrienne, you rock!

    I just heard you on Jon Winston's Bikescape podcast talking about children on the street. I thought you might like this article in the Daily Mail. Especially the map!

    How children lost the right to roam in four generations