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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Guest Post: "Bike Riding and Middle Age":

Bike Riding and Middle Age
by Carly James*

"You'll remember how, it's just like riding a bike."

This quote has been used to convey that when you have not done something in a long time, that it will come back to you.

Well, has anyone got on a bike 25 years after not being on one?

When my car recently died a slow and unnatural death, I had to start riding a bike that I had custom made for me. When I first bought it, I expected to get in shape and cut down on expending resources on imported gasoline. It was an ecological statement. I rode it a few times, then it moldered in my ex's garage for five years.

Now, this is no clunky Schwinn ten speed. My custom bike is a 21 speed made out of space-age lightweight alloys, measured and fit to be ergonomically correct. No stinkin' heavy girl's bike for me. I got a Bike's bike.

The tire width is compatible with off roading, as well as handling pavement.

Do you remember our old ten speeds, with the down turned handlebars that you had to sit up and ride in the "Look, no hands, Ma!" position or else your neck got a crick in it? Or do you remember those "racing" leather seats, that chafed and disappeared into the depths of your butt? Or what about those paper thin "racing" tires that slipped sideways when hitting a minuscule bit of gravel? Ah, those were the days.

My new bike is designed so that I suffer no stress on my back or knees. It sports a comfy extra wide padded seat--one we would not have been caught dead riding at 16 years of age-- a nifty bell to warn passers' by, fenders, a LED light for night travel, and a nice nerdy basket on the back. (Very practical and tres chic, I must say. Pee Wee Herman would be proud).

With this new and improved design, I would be able to whip around town. At least that was the plan.

I have heard that there is such a thing as "muscle memory". My muscles must have Alzheimer's, because my mind remembered, but my muscles didn't.

At first I wobbled, and the death grip on the handlebars made it iffy on the cracked road I was using that leads to the convenience store.

Those that have used that often repeated phrase have not tried riding a bike in recent memory or else are lying through their teeth. I remember riding my bike as a teenager, which weighed probably 50 lbs all over my home town. I rode MILES.

Now, my thighs burn after riding one mile to the store. (And my knees don't feel that great either--but it IS uphill. Well, sort of).

One thing that I tried to do, was the rolling dismount. When I was young, I casually slipped my right leg over the seat, with my left foot on the pedal and my right foot behind my left leg. Then I would coast gracefully to a stop, simultaneously applying the hand breaks, and dismount. Coolness, personified.

My brain remembered this and I tried it. The first time, I think I caught my leg on the seat. The next time I caught my leg on the basket on back. The third time I went a bit slower, and managed to lift my leg up and over the seat, and coast to a really cool stop. Unfortunately, no one was around to witness this spectacular feat of riding skill.

However; when I tried this move again, I ended up holding the handlebars too tightly and when coming to a stop, wobbled and then crashed towards the left.

Very uncool. And in full view of teenagers standing and chatting or texting in front of the store, supposedly about the un-coolness of old geezers riding bikes. ( Well, maybe I was imagining this a bit.) I wonder if this was recorded on a cell phone of said teenagers and will appear on You Tube as the hilarious clip of the day.

Recently, these teenagers decided to shake things up a bit, since I am a regular now at the store. Some quick thinking pixie decided to loosen the release lock on the front tire. When a kid crashes their bike, they usually aren't hurt, jump up and try to act normally; then plot to get back at the kid who sabotaged their bike.

I, on the other hand at age 51, ended up going ass-over-tea kettle, landing first on my head. Contact with the pavement sort of had that satisfying sound of thumping a ripe watermelon. However, my helmet was the thing being thumped. And, it wasn't satisfying.

Thank God for helmets. But, going forward in momentum over the top of my now wheel-less bike (at least in the front) gravity took over and I ended up stopping my bike using my knee as a brake pad on the pavement. (Rather skillfully, I might add.)

Even though it was dark, I heard other apartment dwellers say, "Oh, My God! Are you alright?" (I guess they heard the nice thunk of my helmet hitting the concrete, too.)

Have you ever watched those videos where it is super funny to see people get knocked over, hit in the balls, fall into water, fall off skateboards and so forth?

Do they ever show the "after" of these clips? Those are the ones that show the person grabbing their nuts, crying like a baby and begging for their Mamas, or an ambulance?

I ended up rising quickly, putting my tire back on and acting like everything was okay.

I don't know why I do this, but if I trip badly in public, I always look back at the spot where I tripped and act like,
" Gee, what was back there? It must have been the size of a German Shepherd!"...Never show the bystanders you are hurting. (C'mon, you've done this, too.)

Instead of holding my knee and howling like a four year old child, I slunk into my home and tended my injuries. And, also revised my bike riding routine.

No more flying dismounts, no more "Look Ma, no hands!" And I will personally hunt down the kids that loosened my tire. Maybe by then, I will have obtained a magic crystal ball where I can show them as middle aged, wobbly bicyclists.

Fear and tremble, you hooligans! Someday, you will be wobbling along on a bike with an over-sized seat to conform to your super-sized ass, with your bald head gleaming in the sun.

And I'll be there pushing my walker, laughing. Maybe I can try a rolling dismount then. Walkers seem to be a bit safer.

****


* Carly James has been my dear friend since 1968. We were inseparable when we were young neighbors, and had many fine adventures together. We have recently reconnected due to the kindness of Facebook and Classmates.com Carly is an excellent writer with an excellent sense of humor, and has graciously agreed to be a guess hostess on here from time to time. Thank you, Carly!

Carly James

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