I’M A MIDDLE-AGED GUY (with a few physical limitations) and I’d love to play football with the guys… but I’m smarter than that. I’d like to run as I did for the majority of my first five decades, but I have vertebrae issues. Golf doesn’t interest me anymore; I want a more aerobic activity. And tennis, well, I could never quite get the hang of swinging a tennis racket with any accuracy.
So seven years ago when I had to quit running, I spent some time looking for another sport to keep my weight down and my heart healthy. I couldn’t imagine what it might be—after all I had to care for a degenerating spine. So while I pondered my dilemma, I started riding an old rusty bike I had in my storage unit, and discovered I rather enjoyed it. A flood of memories came back as I peddled through our city streets. It made me feel like a kid again, at least until all those high speed cycling nuts passed me by in their goofy looking clothing.
No, I thought, cycling probably wasn't my new sport.
I'll just have to keep looking.
At first, I rode about seven miles on that old bike with knobby tires, and thought I was really doing something. I felt tired when I got home, but also challenged. I stayed with it. I added a little distance each week and I started really looking forward to my ride. Then, in late 2005, something came over me, and I treated myself to a new bike. I purchased a Cannondale Bad Boy, a kind of cross between a mountain bike and a road bike.
My love affair with cycling had begun
I set up the Bad Boy with the road rims and started chasing the roadies up and down the circuit used by many cyclists in my neighborhood. To my surprise, I began keeping up with and sometimes passing the guys on the road bikes—many of them younger than myself. I soon bought myself some of those funny clothes and a metamorphosis began. I was evolving into a roadie.
I’m a cycling nut, you don’t have to be
Since this is a blog post and not a chapter from my book, I’ll cut to the chase. Cycling is a sport that you can adapt to serve your physical, mental and emotional needs. It offers something for everyone. I’ve since added two road bikes to my fleet, and also bought one for my wife, who has also taken up cycling. I enjoy long distance cycling, and have become a Randonneur. (I have ridden my bike as much as 250 miles in one day.) These days, after my second spinal surgery in March of 2009, I’m back to riding several times a week, and typically covering at least 400 miles a month. I’ve lost 30 pounds, gotten my cholesterol in a safe range, and feel stronger than I did 20 years ago. But that’s my style and it may be a little extreme for many people.
My point here is that you can take up cycling and create a sport that suits your lifestyle, time constraints and health goals.
Cycling offers flexibility and choices
- You can ride any style of bike you want from a beach cruiser to a carbon fiber road machine. Bikes come in every size and style you can imagine, including recumbents in 2, 3, and 4 wheel design.
- You can ride solo (often my preference), or you can make it social and ride with a group or a local club.
- You can ride long distances, or you can ride around your neighborhood.
- You can take your bike on trips and ride in other states or other countries.
- You can tour the countryside, or you can ride on behalf of your favorite charity.
- You can ride during every season if you want to, and during the day or during the night.
- You can push your body to its limits, or you can make every ride a leisurely delight.
- You can wear cycling clothes (designed for comfort and safety), or you can wear your everyday duds.
I've discovered the real deal
Cycling is the most beautiful sport in the world. It allows you to be outdoors in the fresh air, see the countryside, share good times with friends, and keep yourself fit without putting too much stress on your body.
To get started, get a bike, any old bike will do as long as it fits you comfortably. Ride it. Give yourself two weeks in the saddle to see how your body will react. You’ll have sore legs. You most likely have a sore butt, but my guess is you’ll be reminded of a time when you were a kid, out in the world exploring and having fun with your friends.
For me cycling is an adventure. Every time I go for a ride I see something I’ve never seen before. For me it’s more than exercise, it’s my well-being, it’s my therapist, and it’s my lifestyle.