Here is my core belief with regard to riding bicycles: The world would be a much better place if everybody did it, even a little bit, every day. Can you imagine such a world? I ride my bike because I like it. But in the meantime, I don’t burn gas, my blood pressure stays in a healthy spot and I don’t need a whole lotta medication (well, okay, just a little) to keep the “black dog” of depression from nipping at my brain. Even my sister-in-law, who has no voluntary muscular function in the lower half of her body, rides her hand cycle on a regular basis–often with her daughter in tow in her Burley trailer. There are not a lot of valid reasons why this dream of mine couldn’t come true.
So what am I doing to achieve that end? I’m really not the sit-in-meetings-with-officials advocacy type. Sure, I’ve been to some of those sorts of meetings, but I don’t have the mojo to stuff envelopes, man tables, write to elected officials and all those sorts of important things that keep the byways and trails open for the rest of us. I’m more inclined to invite somebody who doesn’t ride to join me on a ride. Tattoo Dave is my latest convert. He already had a bike. I just had to show him what was possible, in this case, with trail riding. A new bike ensued, as did a whole lot of hours going over essential accessories, tools, maintainance, nutrition, pacing, singletrack skills and so forth. Now he’s dusting me like I’m riding backwards, but he’s also gotten his cousin and his uncle on bikes and plans to upgrade his wife’s bike so he can justify something even groovier for his own quiver. Oh, and he’s taken to riding my wife’s road bike to work until he can afford one of his own (she’s pretty dirt dedicated these days, so the loan is no real hardship).
I feel like I have a gift for creating beginner cyclists, turning beginners into intermediates and giving intermediates all the reasons in the world to never get better than intermediate if that’s where their comfort level is. I saw this guy last Saturday on the Kingdom Trails. He was riding with a bunch of fairly skilled guys. This guy looked fit, but I watched him picking his way down a technical section that lofted his rear wheel. Gravity is the law. He fought the law for a few moments, but the law won, and, over he went. The first sommersault looked deft enough to prevent cervical trauma, but as he started the second rotation he stopped short when his helmet hit a tree. His head was in it. The helmet–not the tree.
He was okay. Well, he was missing a tooth, but he started the day that way. (Why do I assume he’s a Canadian hockey player because he’s got a missing tooth? Gotta work on those prejudices some more.) But I’m wondering if his skills will improve enough to match his pals. Or will he stop riding? Me? I was walking the section this guy endo-ed on. Hey, I gotta work on Monday. Family of five and all that. But I’m cool with that. Dave just waits for me at the bottom and we go on our merry way. I wanted to let that guy know that you can still have big fun without requiring orthopaedic surgery on a regular basis. I wasn’t sure how to enlighten him in the moment without it sounding like a put-down.
This belief is starting to feel like a mission. It’s what’s luring me back into the temptations of bicycle service journalism and riding skills clinics–and making noise about the lack of cycling in the public school phys. ed. curricula. Anyway. If you’re a duffer like me, embrace it baby. We’re still way ahead of the 95% of the rest of the population that’s not riding. You win just by showing up. Don’t believe the hype. You don’t have to improve. Just show up.