My bicycle is now ensconced on its trainer. With it I am rehabbing my knee. It’s a very retro hybrid bike, a Bianchi Milano Alfine. You know I am fond of things French, but for a bike, gimme an Italian Bianchi any day. Mine is heavy duty. It’s a great street bike. It’s just the thing for riding in the park. This type of Bianchi street bike is ubiquitous in Italy; rare to be found here in NYC. This particular model is not made anymore. I had wanted the bike in Bianchi green, the celeste color, but by the time I got around to deciding to get one, it was no longer being made, and the only one in the city in the small, women’s model was a white one. My former bike was a Bianchi touring bike. I could no longer use the racing handlebars, due to lower back issues, which, by the way, totally disappeared, along with my neck pain, when I started Alexander Technique lessons. I gave that bike away. If I had been taking lessons at the time, I very well could have kept my old touring bike.
Hmmm it seems that Patrick Macdonald, first generation Alexander trainee, had a low esteem of racing bikes similar to my old one I guess. Hmmm did he suffer from lower back issues too? “Among the instrument devised by man which cause mal-coordination, the racing bicycle must hold high place. The belief, held by thousands, that cycling along a road with hunched back and head pulled back and down is a healthy sport is an indication — if one wanted one — of just how modern feelings and mentation are out of step with common sense.” This is on page 8 of Notebook Jottings in As I See It. What’s up with that? And…could F. Matthias Alexander have been lukewarm on biking since he was so keen on horses? But…
Check out this passage written by FM: “I have personal knowledge of a person, by employing the principles of conscious control which I advocate, mounted and rode a bicycle downhill without mishap on the first attempt, and on the second day rode 30 miles out and 30 miles back through normal traffic. This same person was also able to fence passably on first taking the foil into his hands. In each case the principles involved were explained to him and he carefully watched an exhibition, first analysing the actions and the ‘means whereby,’ then reproducing them on a clearly apprehended plan. This, it seems to me, should be a normal, not an abnormal human accomplishment.” Man’s Supreme Inheritance, p. 136. Walter Carrington stated that FM was referring to himself! With all due respect to FM’s genius and abilities, umm…I don’t think so! On his second ride ever…60 miles!!! Gimme a break! None the less it’s an interesting passage. More heresy: what did “normal traffic” mean back then in that place? I’m assuming he was riding in and around London. Right now I’m thinking of those intrepid bike riders in the bike lane on Eighth Avenue around Times Square! Wow those guys are brave what with all the vehicular traffic–cars and trucks, the garment district guys pushing stuff, us regular fast-walking “get out of my way or else…” pedestrians, and oh, those slowly-walking tourists in that mega-busy area. Moi, Ms. klutz here…well I don’t dare to ride there, especially as I was once hit by a taxi on the much calmer Park Avenue!
So…as I was saying…I get on my now stationary bike and rehab. When I first started p/t I couldn’t even pedal my bike at all, even though it is on the easiest gear. I would just use the seated stationary bike at p/t. Now I pedal away on mine 10 minutes at a time. I do think lots about how I’m using my body while pedaling…thinking about all this for the first time ever on a bike. I think about my head/neck/back, and I think about lengthening up. I think about my breathing. I try not to grip with my hands or arms. It’s almost a meditative state that I get into. Of course the trick is to try not to grip in any part of my legs. My left quad aches all the time right now. When you have torn meniscus surgery your quad atrophies like tout de suite. Building up that quad is of paramount importance! If I think “release” it hurts less. Well I’ll work up to 30 minutes on my Bianchi and then start to build up the resistance. I have graduated to the regular stationary bike at p/t and I use it every time I go there. Anyway, Marcos the bike expert says that the knees control one’s balance–interesting thought right? And that I have to build up my strength and stamina slowly, and by the time the nice weather rolls around again, I’ll be okay to ride.
The second table-enabling Monsieur totally cracks up at the mirror on my bike. He thinks it’s pretty hilarious that I am using it while training. Hey, isn’t it important to check out the scene all the time? Doucette the cat might be up to some mischief behind me!
As I am thinking about cycling and Alexander Technique a lot these days, I decided to go research this stuff out. I found a bunch of articles, e-books and the like on this subject. Here is one on cycling and AT. Here is a blog post written by Mark Josefberg, fellow New Yorker, on AT and cycling in NYC! And here’s a very informative podcast — Robert Rickover interviewing Joe Searby on how the Technique can benefit cyclists.
Since I couldn’t find a clip to play for you, dear readers, of Les petits riens quotidiens…well…below is a clip of Yves Montand singing À Bicyclette. I would say, non-expert that I am, that he has a pretty freed up neck when he is performing.
And check out the hilarious send-up clip below of the Tour de France by Rémi Gaillard. “Allez Richard!” So maybe by the time I can roll my bike out of the house for a spin some people will be around to cheer me along with “Allez Rena!”
Shout out to all my pals on a certain “park bench” for their totally cool input and comments on the Alexander Technique and cycling!!! You guys (that’s masculine and feminine of course) know who you are and you rock! Gros bisous to you!