All this riding I've been doing lately, ploughing through the drifts of dirt left by this summer's heavy rains and struggling uphill on gravel, all the while in the highest gear possible, has begun to demonstrate collateral advantages aside from the obvious pleasure of falling into spiny plants. Last night, for instance, I could feel a newfound strength in my thighs and, surprisingly, my arms as well. I suppose having to grip the handlebars tightly to prevent wipe-outs results in a kind of muscle toning. My next goal? I want to start riding to Foothills Mall and back. I scouted possible routes last night and think I might have found one that keeps me off the dangerously busy La Cañada, Magee, and La Cholla for all but a few feet. I may have to dismount and walk my bike past the barrier that prevents cars from driving all the way south on Romero to Magee. Other than that, though, the course I've plotted seems like a reasonable one. And the ancillary benefits will be most welcome.