In our own backyard... I can fly now
I first learned how to ride a bicycle by coasting down the front lawn of our family home. We lived in the country and since there were no sidewalks, it was kind of like baptism by fire as I pitched and careened down the ruts and ridges of our fro...
I first learned how to ride a bicycle by coasting down the front lawn of our family home. We lived in the country and since there were no sidewalks, it was kind of like baptism by fire as I pitched and careened down the ruts and ridges of our front yard.
The second-hand Schwinn bicycle I rode was built like an iron tank so the bumps and spills I experienced were solely my own.
Not so with today's sophisticated road bikes. They're light and lean, with skinny tires, skinny seats and made of the latest space age materials. In other words - they're meant to fly.
Up until a couple of years ago, I hadn't ridden a bike in years. I'd spent a little time riding one to classes in college, but given the rigors of negotiating the streets of the Twin Cities, it was far from being a joy ride.
And so, when my husband presented me with a mountain bike a while back, I was delighted. I had visions of coasting over hill and dale through the beautiful countryside - not realizing just how much stamina and muscle strength it takes (though that long-ago experience in my parents' front yard should have given me fair warning).
Before long, my interest turned to road biking. That way, I could ride on smooth, even pavement while still enjoying the scenery - but with much less effort expended than in climbing hills and navigating through rocks and gullies on my mountain bike.
I invested in the simplest, most streamlined road bike I could find, devoid of side mirrors, kickstand, or speedometer. My intention was not to aim for speed - but for the love of the ride, which for me means feeling the breeze on my face and yes, enjoying the scenery. The implications of riding at a high rate of speed made me nervous, thinking something might dart out in front of me or one of my tires might fail.
And for some time, I was content. I rode only as far as I was comfortable and at whatever rate of speed I felt like at the moment, but it seemed as though something was missing.
My husband and daughter, who are far more "into" bike riding than I am, compare average rates of speed, distance traveled, and optimum heart rates after every ride. They carry spare tire tubes and change their own flats, wear special shoes to clamp onto the pedals of their bikes and cover vast distances without tiring.
One day last week, after watching the nightly installment of the Tour de France bike race, I decided I needed more out of bike riding than merely looking at the scenery.
My husband was only too happy to accommodate me, and he installed a speedometer and odometer on my bike so I could "set personal goals" for myself.
On Sunday, we rode up the bike trail along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Ken showed me how to set and activate my speedometer and odometer as we set out.
I spent most of the ride looking down to see just how fast I was going and how far I'd come and barely glanced at the scenery at all. And still, I pedaled along at a conservative speed of about eight miles an hour.
Ken pulled quite a distance ahead of me as I tentatively dipped over the top of a steep, downhill grade. And as my bike picked up speed, I couldn't help glancing down to see just how fast I was going. When my speedometer reached a gut-wrenching 22 miles per hour, a strange thing happened.
Instead of the familiar knot of fear welling up in the pit of my stomach, along with visions of small creatures leaping out in front of me or a tire blowout sending me into a horrible crash, I sat back in the saddle of my bike and gloried in it! I felt as though I was flying - fearless and free.
And then, a passing beetle smacked me in the cheek.