Friday, 16 August 2013

Two Wheels and a View

So, I bought a bike.

First time in 35 years that I have purchased a bicycle for myself.

Thirty months ago, my Doctor told me that I was a very healthy fat man, but would not be able to be both forever, and would have to choose which to be.  I lost 35 lbs (and raised $18,000 for the church).  However in the ensuing  two years,  I've managed to repossess almost 25 of those pounds.  Until I get a knee replacement, I find that walking much more than a mile or two can be quite painful, so I can’t go for long walks (which I think has aided in the reappearance of lost poundage… well, that and wine, nachos, chocolate.. mayo, bĂ©arnaise, bread, frites, red meat… HBO and my Kobo).

I decided that I would get a bike and ride around my neighbourhood and beyond as a simple activity for my physical and mental health.  I went to my local bicycle emporium to consider the purchase.  I had my parameters set: I want two wheels… cheap.   I don’t want to race, go off road, do tricks or end up the punch line on some YouTube video. (I might consider streamers on my handlebars).  I met the owner of the shop and explained my hopes and desires:  I want to sit upright and see the world, I want my non-existent posterior to be comfortable, I want my legs to touch the ground efficiently with minimal risk to any prized and cherished anatomy and I want to spend no more than $400.  "Not a problem" intoned the cycle merchant, as he pointed out a variety of wheeled wonders. 

I perused the selection produced by said filters:  I did see a bike with a tractor seat that looked like it might be comfortable – but it was on a tricycle.  No trikes!   

I did see several women’s bikes without centre bars  - but I recall the humiliation of getting beaten up at Bayview Jr. High and having to retreat from the school yard walking my mother’s bike.  Hard for a 15 year old boy to find dignity on a powder-blue girl's bike, after he’s been bested  by a 14 year old.… that 15 year old boy still lives with me.  No girl’s bikes!   

And then, I found it.  A very masculine grey… with a seat appropriate to my posterior… upright… many gears… and they threw in a water bottle (which I will assume could also handle sauvignon blanc):  $395.

The owner did try to talk me into spending an extra $100 for a bicycle with front shocks and faster flip-gears.  I declined, desiring to keep to my modest price point.   He noted that a lot of guys my age appreciate the front shocks, if not the fast rapid gear shifting.  I invited him to step outside so that I might thrash him with a Tilley Hat.  He wisely backed off…  (I may never wear a Tilley Hat, but I keep one on hand just in case I have to get tough).     

So, I bought the bike, threw into the back of my convertible and drove home. 

Last night, I went for my first ride.  I attached my little Ipod speaker unit, so that I can ride and enjoy the cutting edge technology that mimics perfectly the experience of listening to a transistor radio.  I simply don’t think that wearing headphones while riding is safe… and besides, I think that people need to be reminded how awesome a band is Three Dog Night – if not for my riding by, they might never know.   Off I went and the wonders were abundant!!!  I discovered why one might like front shocks!   I saw my neighbourhood again, smiled at people walking dogs, said “Hello” to perfect strangers (well, they may have been flawed, but I like to give them the benefit of the doubt), smelled cooking inspired by at least 3 continents, heard laughter and got lost only once.  I stopped to watch ten year old boys play soccer, witnessed on kid miss the ball and kick his opponent in the groin – and then have his simple “Sorry” be an adequate apology as the game went on… I met a kid who looked just like me named Mohammed (well, he didn't have beard… but he did look like clear proof that Vikings had their way with Irish women)…So many wonders:  Things that I have been missing in my world of newspapers and shootings; Egyptian unrest and global violence.

I arrived home feeling my body and spirit refreshed.  So far, the bike has been a great investment.

I still face one challenge.   The helmet.   
I don’t have one.  
I don’t want one.  
I can’t wear my fedora  with a helmet. 
If I forgo the jaunty chapeau, a helmet will muss my hair. 
I’m not going to get into accidents – it’s simply not part of my plan.  
Should I tumble, I am counting on my cat life reflexes honed over years of Judo and Aikido to protect me.   Bruce Lee didn’t wear a helmet. 

I awoke this morning aware of  seven things.
1.  Shocks would probably have made it easier on my arms and shoulders. 
2.  I really shouldn’t wear a fedora when I go riding.  And I won’t.  (probably)
3.  My hair is pretty much muss proof.
4.  Accidents happen – usually without warning. (I watch shark week... and our government)
5.  I’m not Bruce Lee
6.  If I was Bruce, then I would already be dead… as a result of a brain injury. (awkward irony)
7.  I am a trend setter.

It’s the final point that gets me….  I need to get a helmet for the kids.  When those kids see me riding down the street and are awestruck, I owe it to them to set a good example.  When these young impressionable tykes make that life shaping decision to emulate that old guy sitting up so high on his bike… with a fedora on top… I want them to recognize the helmet beneath the fedora, so that when then begin to emulate me, they will do so in complete safety… it’s the least that I can do for our future… keep the kids safe.

Yes, I am selfless... And I'm all about the kids. 
(cue Whitney Houston singing
             "Greatest Love of All")

So, with that, 
  I’m off to meet a friend for coffee 
   and buy a helmet.
(I don’t intend to wear the helmet for coffee – although there is some pretty strong and dangerous coffee out there.)

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