In my past life I used to be a runner. Not a stick-thin-like-on-the-cover-of-Runner's-World runner, but a pudgy-but-running-so-as-not-to-be-pudgier runner. My tendency has always been to be heavy, and so exercise, always vital, is even moreso for me. I eventually worked my way up to running 7-9 miles a day, five or so days per week. That I did not look like a concentration camp victim at that mileage gives one a sense of my interface with food.
As I got into my 40s my running faded away, and my weight increased in predictable fashion. I've always done a lot of walking, but this spring I decided that walking was probably not enough, and I decided to concentrate on something a bit more strenuous. I've tried gym memberships before, and I have a NordicTrack in the basement, but both bore me to tears (I think the NordicTrack is the most brilliant exercise machine ever made--highly taxing, non-impact, inexpensive, compact--but the monotony is excruciating). Thus, my weapon of choice: the bicycle. I started doing a bit of riding this spring, and realized the overall wisdom of the endeavor: pedaling up the hill just down the street had me puffing as though I'd run the Boston marathon.
One of the perks of living in a small-ish town is that nothing is very far from anything else, and it strikes me that an awful lot of what I use the car and motorcycle for could very happily be accomplished on bicycle. Errands, eating out, joyrides, library trips, renting & returning movies, etc. So my mission began to take shape. And it seems like the perfect opportunity to get a new toy! I've had the same bike now for over 25 years, and haven't ridden it much for a decade or more. While it works OK, it's showing its age. There have been improvements in mechanical things (shifting and brakes) and frame materials over the years, and I figured it makes sense to get something new that's tailored for what I'm planning to do, and something that fits me and is comfortable.
Turns out there is a huge proliferation of bikes available from numerous manufacturers, and quite a few in the urban / commuting / comfort / utility category. And one can spend an absurd amount of money if one pursues, say, carbon fiber. Given that my last bike logged most of its time on hooks in the garage, I figured there was no reason to be silly; just focus on something efficient and comfortable. So I settled on a commuter: basically mountain bike geometry but designed for the street--high pressure but slightly larger street tires, street gearing and brakes, but upright riding position and the ability to mount bags, etc. And my bike of choice is the Globe Sport from Specialized (I wanted disc brakes, but they are no longer available as Specialized breaks the Globe line into three new lines for 2009). Aluminum frame, 24 speeds, comfy ride and ergonomics. Add fenders and a rack in back and a speedometer and we're good to go (I remember thinking in my youth that fenders were hopelessly uncool. Funny how age changes a fella).
So here we are. I managed a number of 8-10 mile rides over the spring on the old bike (which my dealer happily took in trade), and now a good 16 mile ride yesterday on the new bike--half of it in what became a stiff headwind--and am feeling the effects today. With gas prices soaring, it does seem like bicycles, at least in some settings, are a great solution. In big cities especially, where things are concentrated, bikes seem a great way to get exercise, reduce pollution and fuel costs, and solve parking hassles in a swoop. I remember thinking how remarkable Amsterdam was for its bike proliferation. People there do everything from commuting to shopping to errands with the kids on their bikes. Brilliant.
We'll see how long my enthusiasm lasts.