There is no denying it. I am a man of a certain age. And this man of a certain age has a new love in his life. It's a bicycle. Those of you who have known me for awhile are probably saying to yourselves, "This is news?" After all, I've been riding bikes seriously for the past 25 years. I've ridden a number of Solvang Centuries, held a U.S. Cycling Federation racing license and marked my 50th and 60th birthdays by riding my age in miles.
So, what's the big deal and why is my heart once again aflutter? About two months ago I bought what one of my colleagues at work calls a "hipster bike." Unlike the other bike I own which is an Italian style racing bike with 14 gears and "dropped" handlebars (think Tour de France) this is a single speed, fixed gear bike with flat handlebars.
I live downtown so I walk or ride my bike to most places. But up until I bought my new bike I would probably more often run errands by walking rather than ride my racing bike because, number one, I didn't look quite right on it unless I was decked out in lycra and spandex (and at my age lycra and spandex isn't the wisest wardrobe choice) and number two, hopping on a fancy racing bike to go get coffee was a little like driving a Hummer to the corner store to pick up a gallon of milk. (Okay, when you compare carbon footprints it's not even in the same galaxy, but you get the idea.)
The new bike with its single gear is perfect for riding the flat streets of downtown, but pretty much only the flat streets. If a ride is going to involve going up hills then the old racing bike with the option of shifting into low gears is the one for the job. As a result I've never ridden the new bike further north than Trader Joe's on De la Vina.
But for going to the 99¢ Store (otherwise known as the poor man's Costco) to pick up a few bargains, heading over to the Tuesday evening Farmer's Market or going to one of the downtown coffee joints, it is perfect.
So many people have the notion that riding a bike is inherently dangerous. (Anyone remember former city council member and "safe streets" advocate Michael Self?) You have to use common sense, obey the rules of the road and act more like traffic than a pedestrian. But getting around by bike is quite liberating and, I believe, quite safe.
Now that I am freed from the tyranny of Lycra when I ride perhaps I should now go out and buy a pair of those skinny jeans like the hipsters wear? Maybe not, since in the last paragraph I was preaching about using common sense when one rides and after all, at my age it probably isn't the wisest wardrobe choice. But then again when you are a man of a certain age there are a lot of things that aren't the wisest wardrobe choice.