Dog with Prosthetics

I’ve gotten used to people reacting in amazement when they learn that I’ve ridden my bike some distance. Almost any distance seems to be enough to cause disbelief; “You commute every day on your bike to the bike shop… and on Harrison Ave.!?!” or, “You rode 80 miles this morning before you opened the shop!?!” or, “you rode 50 miles after work!?! You’re amazing!” Such statements are usually followed by; “I wish I was in that kinda shape…” or, “I just don’t have the energy for that sort of thing.” Or, “Wait till you get to be my age, I’m just too tired anymore…”

I used to, egotistically, receive such words as confirmation of how fit and above average I was as a rider, and how sluggardly and out of shape were the sayers. But now I have a deeper understanding of the perspective of many of these folks. Some days, just walking 50 feet or less can feel overwhelming to me, after such a heroic effort I need to sit and rest. I attended my wife and daughters to the park recently. It was about a hundred feet from the parking space to the playground—that’s nothing to most folks, but to me it felt like an immense effort. I got to the edge of the play area and sat and watched my daughters play. I had no gumption to join them at even the most rudimentary level by merely climbing a few rungs on the slide. My wife asked if I wanted to join her for a walk, I rolled my eyes assuming she was joking… next thing I know she was gone and later returned after completing the 1 mile stroll around the paved path at the park—then my daughters RAN around the loop!! I dragged my weary bones from the timber curb I was perched on to a picnic bench to wait out their return. I’m not kidding, it was truly overwhelming to me just getting back to the car. Settling into the passenger seat feeling like I was made of lead, I thought of my poor grandfather who lived well into his nineties. “Geez,” I thought. “I might only be halfway to dead… how much more worn out will I feel with each passing decade?”

BUT, put me on a bike and suddenly I’m the energizer bunny. When I ride with “the boys”, which generally happens 3 times per week, we usually ride 50 – 80 miles, usually over pretty hilly terrain, and usually average around 20mph. Yes, I get plenty exhausted racing up the climbs or sprinting to be the first to the various town limit signs we contest, but after a few minutes of recovery I’m ready to pound the pedals for many more miles. I get tired on a bike, but not weary.

So I wonder… am I missing some vital member such that I need a bicycle to compensate so I can lead a normal life—like someone who has tragically lost part of their body and needs an artificial something-or-other fabricated by engineers and artists to help them lead “normal” lives? Is my bike my prosthetic?

Or does riding on a bicycle change me somehow, causing me to be better when in contact with it… a catalyst… like the antithesis of the relationship of Kryptonite and Superman?

Or am I inspired somehow by the flight-like freedom of such rapid self-propelled transit, that I forget to be weary, and rise beyond my own status quo (that’s Latin!) to push the limits of my endurance? Is my bike my muse?

I don’t know the answer, but now I wonder if many of the very people that have been amazed by my bicycling exploits might also be transformed if only somehow I could convince them that I’m not just making this all up in order to sell bikes.

As the slogan says “Change the World. Change You. Ride a Bike.”