When I first got back onto my bicycle in May of 2013 after many years away, I didn’t know if I would stick with cycling. I’ve always loved riding a bike but life had intervened and I hadn’t been on one in years. Since I’d stopped riding before, I wondered if something would happen that would cause me to stop again.
It hasn’t turned out that way. I’ve ridden more in the last three years than I rode in the first 54. Apparently I’m making up for lost time. People told me I couldn’t do this… that my old man’s body needed to rest. OK, fine, but since when does rest mean not doing anything at all? I knew from running track and cross country in college that you can rest by simply avoiding the anaerobic threshold and so that’s what I’ve done. It works. You know when you’re tired. Slow down. Problem solved.
But it’s more than that. Cycling is low impact and so all the aches and pains and injuries that runner me suffered through are now long gone. I don’t hurt any more. In fact, what got me on the bike in the first place was a nasty case of planters fasciitis that came with running. Whoever came up with “no pain, no gain” wasn’t a cyclist, that’s for sure. I get all the gain and none of the pain on my bike. This may be hard to believe, but I simply do not get injured any more. Those poor runners. I’m glad I outgrew that.
I’ve been tracking my miles since May of 2013 and today I went through 20,000 miles. I feel like celebrating. Twenty thousand miles in three years and three months. Not too shabby for an old man. Yeah, I still log my miles. It’s almost more of a chore than it’s worth at this point but I do it because it reminds me not to listen to those people who tell me I can’t do this….or anything else. I am doing this. I can do whatever I want to do. So can you. Don’t listen to people who tell you otherwise. They’re just scared. Don’t be like them.
I ride every day, sometimes more than once. In fact, I have only missed two days all year…one when we were moving to Utah and got into Omaha after 10 PM in a pouring rain and the other was a long day when we went to Arches National Park. How’s that for irony…my first time in Moab and it’s only one of two days I’m not a bike. It proves I’m not compulsive, though I do need to get me back to Moab and the slickrock.
I’ve ridden every other day this year and I suspect I won’t miss another, especially now that I have a Surly Instigator with fat knobby tires that just eats snow, or so I’ve heard. I like riding in the snow. That’s another thing they said I couldn’t do. I did it all last winter.
I take short rides and long rides and just about everything in between. I can cycle to the Fresh Market (0.73 miles), Ogden City Hall (2.1 miles), or the FrontRunner station (2.9 miles). I can cycle to Salt Lake City (39 miles) or Provo (81.2 miles).or Indianapolis (1,537 miles) to visit my daughter. I can cycle to Fairbanks Alaska (2,802.3 miles) and I just might one of these days. See, here’s the thing… Now that I’ve cycled all these miles I know without a shadow of a doubt that I can cycle anywhere I can drive a car to, and I’d rather be on a bicycle…no doubt about it.
When you ride like I do, you don’t need to spend a fortune on a bicycle. I’m not a racer so I don’t need a Ferrari or a Lambo. Toyota or Ford are just fine for me. A bike in this class costs about $1500 brand new off the showroom floor. You can get about 30 of them for the price of one mid-sized sedan. Even so, you might want to start with a used bike until you’re sure this is for you. My first bike when I came back to cycling was a garage sale Cannondale ST-500 from the mid 1980s. It was a beautiful touring bike with a rear rack. It cost me $25.
Cycling has changed my life. I live in Utah now instead of Indiana, mostly because this is a great place to ride a bicycle for transportation. It’s not perfect, but it is better than most places. Utah is committed to weaving cycling into the transportation grid. Others will, too, I’m sure, but I’m 56 and I can’t wait for everybody to figure this out. Time’s a-wastin’. Utah already knows it, so here I am.
Now that I’ve gone 20,000 miles, I have a few more milestones to look forward to. Early next year I should cross through 24,000. That’s one lap around the planet at the equator. That’s a big deal. If I keep riding as I am, sometime in 2019 I should go through 50,000 miles and in the mid 2020s I should hit 100,000. Maybe I’ll slow down and ride less but I doubt it. I’m an Eddy Merckx fan and The Cannibal said to ride lots. These are words I obviously have taken to heart. Unlike The Cannibal, I don’t go very fast…usually.
I think it’s safe to say that I’m not getting off the bike ever again. I did that once before and it didn’t work out well for me. I got fat and old. I became cynical. Then I got back on the bike and I became young and thin and optimistic again. Life is insanely good. The more I ride, the better it gets.
So where am I going with this? Here. I’m begging you. Get out and ride. Get your uncle out of the barcalounger and out there with you. Your sister and your aunt, too. It doesn’t matter how far. Just go around the block. Get a bell and ring it. Nothing sounds quite like a bike bell. Do it one day at a time. Don’t plan to change your life. Let the bike plan. It knows better than you…or me.