Monday, August 27, 2012

Bicycle--no, not the cards

I'm getting older and fatter. That just has to be admitted right up front. Every year that goes by, I notice that physical things get harder. I go bowling when my sister is in town, or go hiking with Cardgrrl when I visit her, and with the passage of time my capacity for such things drops, the next-day pain gets worse, and the recovery time gets longer. The chief culprit (besides Father Time) is not hard to deduce: I'm too sedentary. My entire day is spent sitting. I've known for years that this is a problem, but it has taken me a long time to get around to addressing it.

I have long had the thought in the back of my mind that bicycling would probably be the most pleasant way to introduce some mild exercise into my life. Renting bikes with Cardgrrl and riding around an island in Florida last year was a major impetus toward solidifying these thoughts. It was the first time I had ridden a bike in nearly 30 years, and it was fun.

In January of this year I started visiting the local bike shops and noticing prices. I also picked up brochures telling me about stuff like the valley's bike routes and trails. But the idea still had to percolate for a while longer.

In May, I happened to catch an interview on NPR's "Morning Edition" with a guy named Grant Peterson, whom I had never heard of before. He was promoting his new book, Just Ride. I really liked his attitude and approach. His basic message is this: Racing has ruined cycling for the rest of us. Cycling has become suffused with the perverse notion that what is good for the world's top pro cyclists is what everybody else should emulate: the clothes, the equipment, the attitudes, the riding position, the training habits, etc. And, Peterson says, that's just bunk. Riding should be fun and practical, not expensive and dreary. So he wrote his book to encourage people to return to the days when you just hopped on your bike and took off, for a short ride or long, going as fast or slow as you felt like, wearing whatever you happened to have on, and not worry about special clothes, tracking your miles or your time, or whether your bike frame was some exotic ultra-light alloy. I read a few short chapters of his book as samples on Amazon, and liked him even more.

I started occasionally poking around online at what features of bikes would suit the kind of riding I might do, and what models I might buy with those features that wouldn't represent an enormous investment. A couple of weeks ago I was getting confused at the different frame sizes and associated questions. So I downloaded Peterson's book into my Kindle, hoping it would have some useful pointers about equipment selection (it did), and burned through it in two days. His words really inspired me to stop dithering about the whole process and get to it.

I settled on a Schwinn Discover, which you can get from Wal-Mart, Sears, and other mass retailers for about $250-$260. It's a hybrid model, which is to say that it's somewhat heavier and more rugged than a pure road bike, but lighter and less rugged than a mountain bike. It's designed for comfortable commuting, urban errand-running, and casual city riding. I ordered mine from, and it arrived Friday. (I'm a cheapskate and selected the free "super saver" shipping, which was estimated to take a week, but the fine folks at Amazon decided to overnight it to me by FedEx at no charge!) I have spent a few hours over the weekend doing the basic assembly from the box.

This process has once again reminded me of the hole I have in my brain where the mechanical aptitude is supposed to go. I get baffled by how screws fit into nuts. I can't put anything together right. My latest evidence is this bicycle. The very first thing I managed to do was blow a hole in the rear tire by overinflating it. I did manage to attach the handlebars, seat, pedals, and fenders, but problems remain. The brakes aren't adjusted right. I can't tighten the nut that holds the front fender in place, so it flaps around. The seat is only marginally tight. I scratched the paint in a few spots. Etc. So tomorrow I'll take it to a nearby bike shop, confess my ignorance, and pay them to finish the job for me, as well as repair the tire that I exploded. Then, and only then, some two years after I started thinking about the whole subject, I'll be ready to take a spin on my new toy.

Which means that by Tuesday I'll be sore and achy, wondered what in the world I was thinking, taking up exercise at my advanced age, and deciding that what my life really needs is more naps.


Anonymous said...

Please wear a helmet. They are dorkey looking, you sweat more,and mess your hair up. (well that last one may not be a problem for you) But one tumble or an idiot in a car who doesn't see you and you'll be forever glad you had it on.

Just start wearing a backpack for your water and you can put your helmet in it when you go out to play cards.

Chris Abramski said...

That's a great idea! Good on you, Mr. Grump.

sevencard2003 said...

i get worn out just pedaling it to hooters daily, imagine how worn out id be pedaling to the riv or tx station

lightning36 said...

It is so easy to get used to sitting on our butts playing poker. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Someone is obviously copying TBC. #10 for a video of you riding a bike! ;)


Wolynski said...

I used to ride a bike around Vegas.

Why not just go to a bike shop and pick one out? Assembling a bike seems a tall order.

You don't want a nice bike - it'll get stolen. There's guys riding in vans, who have big clippers and can get through any chain in minutes.

Why am I saying nice bikes? Both my cheap bikes disappeared, chains and all. Still, it was fun.

bastinptc said...

Make sure you know how to change a flat before you go on a long ride. Get a tire repair kit at the bike shop. But heck, you read a book on how to enjoy bikes, so it probably spent some time on maintenance and safety too, so I'll shut up. Have fun!

unemployedjohn said...

Will you be taking it as transport to casinos? I could see it if you just were playing daylight hours. Nighttime, I think, wouldn't work in Vegas (or most anywhere).

I wonder if casinos have bike racks.

Michael said...

Congrats on the purchase, I got a good bike 11 years ago and it's held up great over that time. Even getting close to a couple 1000 mile summers.

I would have skipped the shipping and got it locally with one already put together, but that's me. I also can second the helmet recommendation if you are planning on doing any street riding. I hate them, but am lucky enough to have bike only trails readily available, and not sure how much LV has.

Anonymous said...

You could try a mix of walking and public transport to get around, instead of your car. Vegas has an okay public transport system.

Rob said...

Come on Grump, admit it. You just stole Tony's bike.

snevman said...

Happy trails! Watch out for inattentive drivers.