When I first started this blog, I was asked what all I would write about. I mentioned the usual professional topics and maybe some personal things like cycling, music and maybe some other random topics. With the change in weather, almost I can think about is riding my bicycle. Riding in late fall and winter has its challenges; sometimes it mean less riding. Do you remember riding you bicycle as a kid? I mean, after I figured out that balance can, in some respects beat gravity…
Schwinns. Murrays. Heavy bikes with bike fat tires. As kids we used to ride our bikes everywhere: to and from friends’ houses, to the store to buy a loaf of bread or something. Playing cards or baseball cards held in the spokes with clothes pins to sound like a motorcycle; spinning out in piles of gravel and dirt on the street corners. We rode our bikes to school. I used my bike to deliver newspapers – even in the winter. In elementary school, we used to ride from Mentor into Kirtland down to the Chagrin River. In junior high, three of us even rode to Punderson State Park from Mentor — on a Sears 3-speed! And the same bike took me to work during college. I bought that bike with my newspaper money and it served me over ten years. I paid $49 for that bike — that was a lot for a kid in elementary school delivering newspapers. I learned to take it apart, put it back together, replace the gear and brake cables, re-pack bearings. That was a great bike. I think my parents sold it or tossed it when they moved to the Retirement State, Florida.
I did not ride a bike again until I was 40. Darn near 20 year later. I was living in Xenia and the City and Greene County were building hike/bike trails as fast as they could get funding. I recall thinking, “ These things are only good from maybe April to late October. Why are we spending all this money?” This was, after all, Ohio! But I could not resist the call of the hike/bike paths and bought a new bike: a Giant hybrid. It was heavy with 15 speeds and straight handlebars. 15 speeds!!! It was great to ride; the joy of a 10 year old on a bicycle was back – pure exhilaration!!!
The bike paths took me to some new places — though not really far away. I was not sure about riding more than 15-20 miles — that was pretty far! My wife and I took the kids for bike rides on the trails. I was truly surprised how many people were on the trails – it reminded me of Sim City! The trails were teeming with walkers, hikers, skateboarders, in-line skaters and cyclists of all kinds on all kinds of bicycles. I even bought a bike helmet. That was as far as my understanding of cycling went. But it was enough for the time. The sheer joy of riding had taken a bite of me.
I moved back to Northeast Ohio and again found bike trails. One day I was talking to an old high school friend Rick, and was telling him about my bike and that I had ridden 8 miles that day. He told me he ride 12. The next dayI rode 12 and called Rick again. He had ridden 18. I was flummoxed. He then told me about road bikes. I started to choke — I recalled seeing those prices. The Giant hybrid was really expensive – or so I thought ($300). So of course, I went to the local bicycle store — Eddy’s Bikes! What a store!! It was almost like being akid in a candy store. There were rows and rows of bikes. And water bottles. And over to the left, clothes. Clothes? Oh c’mon — you’ve got to be kidding! Bicycling clothes??? After a few weeks of indecision I bought a Trek 1.0. And then the salesman suggested bike shorts. Spandex? Seriously? On a guy?
Okay. I bought the shorts. I now have 3 pairs of spandex shorts. And a shirt — oops — a jersey. It had pockets on the back big enough to hold grapefruits. And gloves. A few months later, I went back and bought shoes and “clipless” pedals — pedals to which I have to clip on my shoes. At this point I was more than bitten.
Since then I have ridden four century rides — three with the Team In Training program in different states. I have made some incredible friends in the process. Thinking back to the comment I made 12 years ago in Xenia, I am now riding almost year round. Yep, in Ohio. I celebrate New Year’s Day with a 20-30 mile bike ride. Did I mention, riding hills??? That will be another topic for another day….gotta go. Gotta ride my bike before the rain and snow hits this week.