Flashes of Red, Yellow, & Blue
I stepped outside onto my driveway to fetch the Saturday morning newspaper, with fresh coffee in hand, and breathed in the clean springtime air. As I looked across the sloping hills of early corn to the quiet country road beyond, something caught my eye. Flashes of bright red, yellow, and blue sped by as three spandex clad cyclists pedaled their sleek, carbon fiber road bikes along.
As I watched, I was transported back to boyhood days of long ago, riding a bicycle with such freedom and energy.
I remembered riding my metallic orange “big kid” bike to T-ball practice when I was 7, and getting stopped by a police officer for running a red light. I chuckled as I recalled being terrified that the officer would haul me off to jail… and worse, the grounding I would get for being hauled off to jail.
And I thought about my best friend Gary whose father fashioned plexiglass motorcycle windscreens for our bicycles so we could pretend to be Ponch & John from CHiPs. We rode for hours each day, singing the CHiPs theme song, and saving imaginary people from certain disaster.
As the cyclists disappeared over the corn-blanketed horizon, I said to myself, “I want to do that again!”
I walked back inside to share this newfound desire with my wife who is always quite supportive of my frequent, numerous, and varied newfound desires. And she was all for it.
Unfortunately, the economy wouldn’t be quite so supportive of said newfound desire as I had recently found myself downsized at work. So, our bicycle budget added up to, well, zip.
Being financially challenged, I knew I would have to be creative in my quest for a new ride. Craigslist, eBay, and the local bike shop weren’t offering any bikes at 100% off, so I turned to freecycle.com, a sort of “if-you-come-pick-it-up-it’s-your's-for-free” kind of site. I posted that I was looking for a bicycle and within minutes, at 10:00am to be precise, someone responded – “It’s yours. Pick up by 10:30am.”
Chain Clanging & Legs Searing
An hour later, I unloaded the old red Huffy Scout bicycle from our minivan. My wife and kids came out to greet me on this joyous occasion. I mounted my new rolling steel-framed steed as my youngest came bearing an old, multi-colored rollerblading helmet. With helmet donned, a single pedal stroke began my cycling adventures.
The old Huffy was heavy. The spokes were rusty, the chain clangy, and the rear wheel was somewhat elliptical shaped and canted slightly to the right. With each rotation, the tire would wobble, rubbing the frame and brakes. It created a rhythmic “hmph-ching-a-reeer-ching-a-hmph-ching-a” sound that could be heard by curious neighbors standing on their driveways, fetching Saturday morning newspapers and drinking fresh coffee.
After a quick spin around the neighborhood, I returned home with lungs burning and legs searing. I was as out of shape as the bicycle.
We christened the old Huffy “The Hooptie Bike,” and each took turns riding and laughing at how we must have looked.
Freedom & Fitness
In the days and weeks that followed, I continued riding the Hooptie Bike around our neighborhood. I loved the freedom, the breeze, and the feeling of getting into better shape. The neighbors were amazed! Not so much by my improving fitness, but because I would dare to intentionally and continually ride such a beast.
One day, I worked up the courage to ride on the same country roads where I had seen the cyclists weeks earlier. I was out of the saddle, hammering up a long, subtle climb and gasping for breath in a rhythm that matched the “hmph-ching-a-reeer-ching-a-hmph-ching-a,” when I heard “on your left!” The spandex clad couple passed me effortlessly on their road bikes, looked over their shoulders, and gave me encouraging thumbs up.
I felt as if I had been initiated into a special community - a community not only of cyclists, but a community of everyday people, of different ages, shapes, and sizes, seeking to live healthy and fit lifestyles.
Laugh, Have Fun, & Feel Great
In the years since that first encounter on the driveway, I’ve continued riding and have upgraded bicycles, gear, and spandex. I love riding. I love pushing myself. I love knowing that I’m in better shape then ever. And I love sharing the experience with my family and friends.
I still have the Hooptie Bike. I keep it as a reminder not to take myself, or my fitness journey, too seriously, but to have fun, laugh a lot, and feel great in the process.
Get out and ride!