2018-11-09 / Commentary

Biking back to my childhood

40–Something

I love mountain biking. It takes me back to my childhood when my friends and I would mount our Schwinns and pound a vacant wooded lot covered in dirt trails. I loved riding those trails so much, I stuck with a BMX bike while all my friends decided to “grow up” to 10-speeds.

Ironically, I didn’t start off so well on the trails because my first post-training wheeled bike was not made for such adventures. In fact, I’m not sure it was made for anything other than looking cool to a six-year-old.

It had a fat rectangular seat, a plastic No. 5 sign on the handlebars, plastic fenders on both wheels, and plastic tubing that enveloped the cross bars making it look like it was a bad-A motor bike with pedals.

Cool, right?

The problem was that all those extras made the bike weigh about 400 pounds. When the thing fell over, it was like I had tipped a Harley Davidson, not a Schwinn. Pedaling up any kind of slope was like climbing the Swiss Alps.

I had to build up an incredible amount of speed just to get it up the first dirt hill on that empty lot. I might as well have been Evel Knievel trying to jump the Grand Canyon because most times I got halfway up the hill and fell over in a mangled mess of plastic accoutrements.

Later, I moved on to a lightweight BMX bike after a few timely tantrums and some unfortunate injuries from getting pinned under that first bike, and trail riding became my escape.

Unfortunately, my mom and I moved from that neighborhood to an apartment complex in Columbia just before my 11th birthday. I tried desperately to make the apartment grounds a substitute for my old trails, but eventually I gave up and switched to a 10- speed and road riding.

That worked out fine clear through most of high school until the day a lady in a big old Buick turned onto Farrow Road without noticing me flying towards her. My ensuing flip over her hood must have been quite a sight.

I did manage to escape that little incident with nothing more than a sprained wrist and a bruised ego, but needless to say, I was suddenly motivated to get back on the trails where the only thing that might run into me was a squirrel.

I finally found the answer to my prayers in college with mountain biking. It was dirt trail riding for grown-ups.

I also discovered fairly quickly, you don’t need an old Buick in the way to have a nice wreck when I foolishly decided to fly through a creek crossing. Let’s just say my bike stopped cold in the muck, and I ended up completely submerged in three inches of cold, flowing water.

Despite that, I kept on biking, but recently I found that even though there are no cars near—it can still feel like I’ve been hit by one. I’m a long way from six-years-old, and unfortunately, my joints and bones are getting older, while those trail roots and rocks seem to keep getting harder.

So to combat that combination, I recently invested in a dual suspension mountain bike. I haven’t upgraded like this since I dumped that two-ton faux motorbike, and I haven’t looked this cool since before I discovered that faux motorbike was a rolling death trap.

Cool may be a bit of a stretch for a middle-aged guy on a mountain bike, but not needing heavy doses of ibuprofen after every ride is very cool.

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