Pain in the Ass


I don’t remember the last time my ass hurt, more specifically the lower connections of my gluteus maximus to my adductor magnus, that soft spot where sitting and pedaling come together. Before Sunday, I had been off the bike for something like six weeks, a combination of injury and bitter cold forcing me to concede that discretion was called for this winter, rather than valor.

But Sunday was warm, nearly 50F, and I didn’t feel I could sit on the couch any longer. Dawn cracked. I pulled up my big boy tights and set out to do some pedaling.

The first ride back is always revelatory, isn’t it? To feel your body working again, to be outside and engaged, to cover some ground under your own power, it calls up all those things elemental to cycling. And of course, there is the revelation of form, really the lack of it, the slowness, the struggling, the cruelty of the wind. Coming back up the hill to my house, I couldn’t believe how slow I was and how hard it felt. Except that I could.

My neighbor has been stealing rides between snow storms, running to keep up his fitness when the bike is a poor option. He asked me to ride with him on Saturday, and I should have gone, even just for an hour, but I was afraid. I wanted to suffer alone first, to see where I was before showing anyone else.

The good news is I still love riding bikes.

Zakem1I took a slow spin into the city. No one rides into the city on purpose, but I do sometimes. The roads are all awful, snow plows and salt breaking down an already patchy network of asphalt, the pot holes spread like mines in a field. But the low winter light plays across the faces of buildings and throws shadows across the river. Winter ducks cluster at the water’s melted edge and the streets are quiet, too many people stuck in their cold weather routines to recognize the beautiful day dawning outside their windows.

It is a pain in the ass to start over, especially when there is little prospect of a quick return to form. The snow hasn’t finished with us yet, and this January thaw will fade back into frigid cold again. I won’t be piling up miles any time soon. But that’s ok. Sometimes it’s good just to remind yourself of what you’re waiting for, to roll around aimlessly and feel like a cyclist again.

, , , ,


  1. Ransom

    This is a lovely piece, addressing a phenomenon I know all too well with my tendency to have “aways” necessitating “returns”.

    With that said, I’m going to sieze on a trivial fragment: Robot, is that pain in the ass whose physiological location you describe that sensation that almost makes you wonder whether your saddle’s too wide, somewhere between muscles having been used oddly and bruising? And is it something you associate specifically with initial rides after time off?

    The sporadic riding does’t help, but after 25 years of various iterations of pain and numbness without ever finding a comfortable saddle, I’m desperate for any data points… I’m still hoping the last saddle of my search doesn’t have to just be the last guess purchased before infirmity puts me on the couch.

  2. Michael Schlitzer

    I liked the line “pull up my big boy tights”. It is always a shock at just how little fun it is to ride in crap weather. Losing the feeling in your feet, counting the minutes – seconds – until you get back home – 5 minutes after you left. Combine this post with the one about children and the fact that in the dead of winter there are only about 4 good hours of daylight and you have all of the reasons why I am dedicated to my Computrainer from December to March. I can’t balance all the commitments with outdoor riding when I can’t really start until 1000. My wife always says “Do you remember when you were young and you used to laugh at those guys who wouldn’t go out in the dead of winter? Now you are that guy.” Sometimes the truth hurts, but at least I’m still riding through the winter even if it is inside.

  3. Devin

    @Ransom, have you tried Selle SMP saddles? I too have what I’d call a “special needs crotch,” and went through pretty much every brand and various type until I finally sucked it up and tried out the “weird” ones. Total revelation- specifically in the lack of pressure on the soft tissues, and when you get it set correctly you can rotate your hips forward and press back against the rear rise (I find I can generate more power that way, and when I try this on non-SMPs there’s much too much pressure on the soft tissues.) The nice thing about them is the intuitive increase in widths and softness, so you can get exactly what you’re looking for. Check em out if you can, and good luck- saddle discomfort can pretty much ruin cycling.

  4. Author

    @Ransom – I am happy with the saddle I ride. When I’m riding as I normally do, I can ride all day without ass pain. I think the sensation I was feeling was the direct result of laziness leaving my body via my posterior.

  5. Patrick O'Brien

    Well, Robot, that’s one way of getting rid of laziness. I hope you have a cut out type of saddle on that bike.

  6. ldp

    Good thoughts, but count yourself lucky! I was out Saturday and Sunday this weekend, and both days were hovering around -15C (5F)… it’s all in the clothing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *