Several years ago, my doctor decided that my cholesterol was too high, so he put me on Lipitor. Before doing so, he spent about 1/2 hour warning me about all the rare side effects, which included nerve problems in the hands and feet. After about a month on the drug, I developed a nasty nerve problem called a Morton’s neuroma in my left foot. It could have been a coincidence, but I wasn’t taking any chances. My doctor tried several different drugs of the same type (statins), but the nerve pain came back.
The pain was worst when I rode Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, in my Keen sandals. So I chucked the sandals. The problem persisted. I went to a podiatrist and had a series of rather painful injections to calm the nerve. These injections helped some but made my foot numb. I bought a couple of remedies off the Internet that look pretty goofy. (One’s a big foam donut I put on my ankle when I sleep. Another is a rubbery thing that separates my toes. Wearing them looks as dorky as one of those cones you see on dogs after they’ve had a procedure at the vet.) They worked okay but they are not a cure.
Over the course of the last few years, I’d ride my recumbent sporadically, but had to rely on my two upright bikes, The Mule and Little Nellie, for most of my miles. A switch from toe clips to oversized PowerGrips allowed me to move my foot around on the pedal. Still the pain kept coming back.
This year, I decided to try riding with my new Teva open-toed sandals and the PowerGrips. The pain still comes back but it is tolerable. I have put well over 1,000 miles on Big Nellie this year and have ridden it for all but one short ride this past month.
(I have thought about buying some Sidi cycling shoes but this would require switching to clipless pedals which I am no fan of.)
Another change I made was involuntary. My fairing, a Lexan windshield, broke. This was probably a good thing since I couldn’t see through it for all the scratches I had put in it. Without the fairing, the weight distribution of Big Nellie is different: the front end is lighter. The steering is a bit twitchier which can be interesting. And the lack of a fairing allows for a cooling breeze, as Jonathan Winters used to say, all over my body. It’s like having a new bike. Without the fairing, I give up a couple of miles per hour on my morning hill descent but it’s worth it. (33 miles per hour is fast enough at 7 a.m.) I’ll get another fairing when the temperatures drop this fall.
One thing that’s interesting about recumbents is that you use your leg muscles differently than on a conventional bike. The more you ride a bent, the more efficient your pedaling gets. After all this bent riding, I can feel a big difference. After about 2 miles of warm up, hills don’t much bother my legs. I just get into a rhythm and spin my butt off. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still slow but you won’t hear much huffing and puffing from me.
The best thing about recumbents is that you can ride them all day and your back, neck and shoulders don’t ache. (In fact, if I am having any back problems, riding my recumbent actually acts as physical therapy.) Last Saturday, I rode 109 miles. My legs were tired but the rest of me felt just fine.
So for the next couple of months, you’ll see me out benting. I’ll be the guy on the big black rolling lawn chair with the wind up his shorts and a smile on his face.