I was already old when I first decided riding a bicycle down Kennerly Road for an hour or so a few times a week was a good idea. Maybe if I’d started much, much earlier things would be different. But I didn’t, so they ain’t.
Biking while old is complicated a bit by my inability to recognize pending trouble soon enough to make concessions before that same trouble is no longer just pending. I didn’t used to be like that. Once upon a younger time in my life, to quote Johnny Nash, “I could see clearly now” when something looming needed altering.
I originally retired as a bike rider in 1963, when one of the older guys I knew got a motorcycle. I seriously took up the pastime once again in 2017. If one does the math, you realize that’s a long time between rides.
I didn’t think a lot about it at the time, considering the old adage about how resuming easy things are “like riding a bike.” But I’ve discovered many things that are way different between someone who started riding at age 67 and my great friend and former band mate Rick Reed, who basically never quit riding.
Not long after I upgraded slightly to a new road bike, bike guru Eddie Balcerzac suggested I get shoes with cleats to keep my feet from slipping off the pedals during rides. After finding shoes and peddles that worked fine, I thought I was ready for the road. And I was—mostly.
Since I started riding more often in 2017, I’ve only been involved in seven accidents. Each of those were at extremely slow speeds and self-inflicted. While I realize the likelihood of a more serious accident is entirely based on the whims and reactions of a four-door pickup driver, whether it be inattention, animosity, or overconfidence in driving ability at high speeds, I don’t worry about such things.
A few days back I was trying to locate someone I attended high school with. I was stunned at the number of people listed in my graduating class’s “Memorial” section. While saddened by the ones I knew but didn’t know were deceased, I’m feeling fortunate to still be drawing breaths—even labored ones while peddling furiously up a slight incline.
I have taken steps to reduce minor mishaps by removing the cleats Guru Eddie strongly suggested. I’d discovered my rapier quick mental reflex system runs out of capability before I get to the “dismount from the bike” part. The last step currently seems to be “stare in confusion while the bike stops and falls over like an Arte Johnson impersonator from the TV show Laugh In.” My first ride minus the cleats resulted in a near miss where I successfully dismounted my Fuji while still moving really slow— success.
A friend had offered to modify the cleats, so they’d be easier to disengage. After my first episode without cleats, I’m glad I refused his offer. Also hoping four-door pickup manufacturers start infusing lavender into seat material to help calm nerves and attitudes.
Mellow drivers might improve my chances of bike ride survival even more.