Friday, March 5, 2010

Gearing Up For Riding Season

Today I went to the 24th Annual Toroto International Bike Show, and it made me feel grumpy.

Don't get me wrong: I love bikes. But most of my bikes in the past few years have been either tooled up from scratch, or bought from independent dealers in Toronto. The Bike Show is not like either of those things; instead, it's rows upon rows on ungodly expensive cycling machines, ugly jerseys, and things that are labeled with an incomprehensible series of letters and numbers. Shimano Ultegra 6700? Sounds like something that would get into a harbourfront rumble with Godzilla 3000. I saw hundreds of really, really nice bikes...and nothing that got my blood pumping.

I know it's sort of a hipstery thing to be really into your bike, and talk about parts and routes and how you rebuilt your bottom bracket using only, like, dental floss and an avocado pit. But for us lesser peeps, what ends up happening is an us-v.-them style dichotomy, wherein we have the experts - both trained and lay - and then we have everyone who gets nervous entering a bike shop.

Which happens to include me. I'm not a pro: I like riding my bikes, and I'm interested in cycling culture and making our communities safer and more open to those who choose to put the fun between their legs. But I'm certainly not a gearhead, and bikes are machines. Oh, sure, there's more to them then that: increased mobility on a global scale, a healthy alternative to sit-on-your-butt methods of commuting, an economical way of getting around, a fun way to meet people. But they are first and foremost a machine, and machines have parts. And anything with moving parts will inspire a range of low-to-high knowledge bases. I fit in the most awkward part of that: I know how much I don't actually know.

In addition to feeling totally out of place, the Bike Show was super frustrating because it only repped the gearhead side of the cycling community. I would have liked to have seen more stuff, in a wider range: bags and spoke cards, magazines and books, clothes that weren't tacky jerseys (or the line that was designed especially for women-type folks, and I can't decide if that's condescending or cool), family-oriented stuff, more BMX stuff, and maybe a hey-how's-your-bike-running setup. I realize it's a trade show, but unlike the annual auto shows, cycling actually inspires some people to feel part of something. It would have been nice to go and feel included, even though I'm not a pro.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sleep On It

Whoo! Sorry, I've been AWOL for a week or so. I wish I could be all, "Oh, I was jet-setting around Europe with my Siamese cats and my manservant Raoul," but that would be a stinking lie. I've mostly been lazing around: Reading week was last week, so there was skiing, snowshoeing, and watching an entire season of The Office. This week, it was coming home and disrupting my sleep schedule to the point where I've been falling asleep at dawn and then lurching through my days like a scary zombie. Going without sleep is a terrible, terrible thing.

When my mom mentioned that babies make people into early risers, it was the first inkling I had that maybe parenthood wasn't going to be my bag. After a terrible run-in with insomnia in my first year in university, I've been what might be characterized as a bad sleeper: it takes me forever to fall asleep, I'm tired all the time, and it's way too easy for me to go completely off the rails, vis-a-vis scheduled bedtimes. I'm terrible at naps. I hate sharing the bed (and I'm not alone). Sometimes, I'd prefer just to sleep on the floor. It's tricky, because these things aren't exactly easy to explain. And sometimes, they make me sound totally insane.

Sleeping is a non-negotiable. It isn't like fancy bottled water or internet access: sleep deprivation makes me people go crazy, in a very real way. The torturers in Gitmo use it as a way of fucking with the enemy so deeply, it can rearrange selves and personalities. And while my sleep-suckitude is a very different levels than those people, the difference between well-rested, sleep-scheduled me and falling-asleep-at-dawn me is astounding. If I were a different kind of writer, I might say it was night and day (rim shot!); not sleeping properly makes me feel enough nausea without needing to devolve into Jack Paar-esque comedy.

I've tried it all: turning the light off at eleven means that I toss and turn for hours; reading in bed means I'm sucked into a Stephen King book and then can't sleep because I'm too busy wondering if there's something trying to get in my third-floor window; watching TV is no good, because I just keep watching, leading to TMZ viewings that are no good for anyone; warm milk helps, as does a hot bath, but only a little.

It's troubling: my body seems to crave the most zzzs between the hours of eight am and noon. This is going to make getting a real-person job sort of a nightmare once I leave the Magical Garden of University Living. Most jobs - ones with benefit packages, anyway - seem to require some sort of commitment to being there in the morning. I've worked a few jobs wherein I had to be there at nine; these were summer jobs and the sun was already pouring through my window, being cheery and heating my bedroom up like a convection oven. Let's just say it was better to leap out of bed at eight than sweat to death under the duvet until noon. But I've never really had a job through the winter, where I had to get up under the cover of darkness, bike somewhere as the sky was lightening to gray, and slog through the day. That sounds terrible!

Over the next couple months, I need to figure out a way to get better at sleep. I quit piano lessons in elementary school, because I didn't want to practice. Practicing my sleep sounds equally lame, but I figure getting those forty winks in an appropriate timeslot is one of the best steps I can take towards becoming a functional grown-up. Plus, I figure it's best to practice sleeping; that way, if I do have a baby someday, I'm already a seasoned vet, not some junior-league amateur.