January 1st 2009 I hopped on an old heavy hunk of metal bike I bought at Sports Authority during Seminary and went for a 5 mile ride. Loved it, but I knew the bike would need to be replaced with a machine that was designed for being ridden rather than being cheap.
After that day I did what most americans do, I bought a mountain bike with big knobby tires. I road that Felt Q 720 over 500 miles. After that I purchased a road bike which felt like driving a Lamborghini. It was fast, but it was fragile. Those bikes are designed for ridding on roads (I know, the name “Road Bike” should have tipped me off).
I’m all for messing with dangerous animals, sometimes I run with scissors and I’ve even been known to drink milk a day or two beyond the sell by date. Yet, I found riding something smaller than a Smart Car on a road creeped me out so I prefer ridding on sidewalks and grass and dirt and only roads when there is no other option. Besides road bike riders tend to wear spandex and have a personal policy to never participate in a sport which has uniforms made of only spandex.
Anyway there are different types of bikes and different types of riding. Early in my riding most of my rides were just me. Later I bought Laura a bike (2009 Trek Navigator 2.0) and we bought a buggy to put kids in and since they have grown I bought a tag-a-long for Becks to ride with me. All this has made biking a family activity more than a solo activity.
We have found biking to be one of our favorite family things to do. Some people ride for speed, we do more of what we call Adventure Biking. It’s slow and we stop and look at things, we take photos and play on playgrounds and look for animals and run errands. The bike becomes simply a tool that gets us far from our house at a speed that we can see the world going on around us.
This morning it occurred to me that the local trails are like walking through the wardrobe in Narnia. Getting on the trail makes me believe I’m in the middle of the country following a winding rock bottom creek. There are waterfalls, big fish just under the surface turtles, snakes, the other day I passed a turkey. It’s easy to forget that I-435 is about 100 yards away when we are in the wardrobe.
I do still ride alone and I find it to be one of the most relaxing and focused activities in my life. I fire up Pandora and listen to music or a sermon podcast as I commute to Redeemer during the week or while I just hop on the Indian Creek or Mill Creek trails and fly. It is really one of the most satisfying things to do.
When I don’t ride for awhile I forget how wonderful it is and someone talking like I am now seems kinda ridiculous. If you haven’t ridden in a while I could not more strongly recommend you get out there as soon as you can. It’s good for your health, it’s good for your mind it’s just fun.
If you are considering getting into biking there are a few things we’ve learned that may help you.
1. Get a real bike. What I mean is buying milk from Walmart is fine, buying a bike is not. Yes they are cheap, but the bikes are crummy and a crummy bike is not that fun to ride. Last week Chris and I went on a ride. the first half of the ride he was on a Walmart bike and was miserable trying to keep up with me. The second half of the ride he was on a borrowed real bike from Bob Albright (owns Midwest Cyclery). I had trouble keeping up with him after the switch. It’s worth the money to buy a real bike. If you are trying to do this cheap buy from craigslist. Avoid newer Schwinn, Next, Huffy, Diamondback, Roadmaster. Go for Specialized, Trek, Kona, Fuji, Giant, Cannondale, Gary Fisher, Felt, Marin, Surly, Masi.
2. Get a comfy bike. Try lots of bike styles. Laura likes a comfort bike. It has one of those really fat seats which keeps her little butt from hurting when she rides. Her only regret is not getting a bike with 700c tires. These are bigger and make riding easier over long distances. I absolutely love cyclocross bikes. I bought a Surly CrossCheck because it has handlebars higher than the seat, is made of lightweight, but strong steel. Plus it was Robin’s Egg Blue which I prefer over the generally bland colors of most bikes. Cyclocross bikes are made like road bikes, but have thin knobby tires on them which is great on pavement and great through grass and over rocks. It’s a go anywhere bike.
3. Wear a helmet. I’ve only wrecked twice, both due to wet surfaces while on the road bike. On both occasions I smacked my head pretty hard on the ground, but wasn’t injured because I had a helmet on. On the second occasion a 60+ year old lady watched it happen and she came and picked my bike up while telling me how slick the surface was that day.
4. Get a good seat. There are more types of seats than there are bikes on the planet. I’ve tried normal, women’s, Brooks leather and a few others, but only recently found one I like. It is split in half which…I’ll spare you the details other than to say my butt no longer hurts.
If you don’t currently ride I can not encourage you enough to consider it. It’s a great family activity, burns tons of calories and changes the way you’ll view this town as you go slow enough to stop and enjoy God’s creation. Below are a few photos from biking in recent weeks.
This is Chris with his borrowed bike and me with my Surly CrossCheck.
Laura and Shari rode with buggies dragging kids for weeks preparing for this ride on the Katy Trail at beginning of June.
Me on the Katy Trail, bikes have made this trail an annual adventure for Tony and I. Could be fun to do with a larger group again if you want to go on an adventure.
We find fun things to take photos on when we bike. This tractor was in a field off of 151st street for a few weeks. It never occurred to me to stop and take photos in a car, but going by slowly on a bike it just made sense.
Same with this wheat field. 151 Street as we rode to Sunday evening church.
We often look in the water for stuff. Adventures are just fun.