I want to ride my bicycle…

Laura and I both bought cheap bicycles when we were living in Mayfield Heights. I don’t remember if we got ’em from Sears, Wal-Mart or Target, but it was one of those. Total bill for both bikes: roughly $200.

A hundred bucks doesn’t buy you a titanium alloy frame or fancy suspension or Shimano shifters. Actually, Laura’s bike does have Shimano shifters, which I’m told is a good thing. Still, the bike got me to and from work quite a few times, and it was good enough to ride the towpath from Valley View to Peninsula on a fairly regular basis throughout the summer.

The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath was once used by mules and horses to tow coal barges from Akron to Cleveland. It has been converted to an excellent riding and running trail, and the trip from Valley View to Peninsula and back is somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-five miles. In a brilliant marketing move, someone decided to put a bike shop right next to the trail in Peninsula with the express purpose of parting me and my money on every single trip I made. I bought a fender, a toolkit, a rearview mirror, a bell (yes, a bell) and some other accessories over the span of several trips to Peninsula. In the first summer I had my hundred-dollar bicycle, I spent approximately two and a half times its original value on accessories (such as aluminum pedals and an electronic speedometer) and necessities (a helmet).

Unfortunately, I haven’t ridden my bike much in the intervening years. I could probably generate a laundry list of excuses, but it all boils down to laziness and lack of motivation. The bike has spent the last few summers hanging upside-down from the ceiling in the garage. I took it out to the towpath once last summer (or perhaps it was the summer before), but that’s been about it in four years or so. I keep saying that I should start riding again and the bike still hangs in the garage.

Well, the tires are on the ground now.

Bob and I went out for our first ride late Saturday morning. Rather than driving to Valley View (which is about 30 minutes or so from my house), we opted to start at Bob’s house and ride the nearby Metropark trails. Well, that was the plan. We did make it to the Metropark trail, but the amount of distance we covered on the trail was somewhat less than inspiring.

At the heart of the matter is this: the change in elevation between Akron and Cleveland is slightly less than 400 feet, and there are 44 locks along the way. Coal barges were raised approximately 9 feet while passing through each lock. This makes for a fairly level towpath. Oh, there are a few dips and rises along the way, but nothing especially daunting.

The distance from Bob’s house to the Metroparks trail is approximately two miles. Straight up. Approximate change in elevation: thirty-six bajillion feet.

I used to think that this part of Ohio (and most of Ohio, for that matter) was relatively flat. I was unaware that Bedford Heights is actually smack in the middle of the Adirondacks. When ticking off potential risks for the Saturday morning ride, I had not included high-altitude pulmonary edema among them, else I might have put a few vials of Diamox in my toolkit.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit. The truth is that it’s a little hilly between Bob’s house and the bike path, and the path itself is very similar terrain. For real cyclists (who we were deathly afraid of being spotted by), the grade isn’t terribly difficult. One such cyclist was somehow managing to go faster up a hill than we were going in the opposite direction. I suspect that it wasn’t his first time out this year.

Bob might well have been happy to press onward when—at a measly 3.1 miles from his house—I requested that we head back. Really, though, I’m hoping that his demeanor was a clever facade, and that he was as desperate as I to return to an air-conditioned house and a gallon or so of ice water. (Did I mention that I didn’t have my water bottle with me? Oh, yeah. I didn’t have my water bottle with me.)

The ride back proved to be considerably easier than I anticipated, be it due to improved shifting efficiency or a net decrease in altitude. Whatever the case, my overall condition at the conclusion of our journey was considerably less pathetic than it was at the midpoint. I was somewhat dismayed to find that I was no more “ripped” after our ride than I had been before it. The six-pack abs and defined pecs I was expecting were conspicuously absent.

Yes, it was an inauspicious start, but it was a start. There was talk of doing it again next Saturday morning, though I suspect that our total distance traveled will be slightly less. Towing a portable defibrillator isn’t going to make climbing those hills any easier.

9 thoughts on “I want to ride my bicycle…”

  1. I was questioning the purchase of a fender over that of a bell, but I guess a bell instead of a horn…

    Ahh, the thrill of a bike ride. Used to do it all the time back on the farm. Still enjoy it a lot.

    I don’t recall the seat on my Varsity to be as big a pain in the a** as the one on my Takara. Rode the Schwinn to HS w/o pain, can’t go twenty minutes now before it feels like I’m on the post itself. Apparantly these seat things take some acclimation when you weigh 1-1/2 times what you did back then.

    Sounds like bike trails are the way to go in Ohio. A ride next to a canal would not be as monotonous as riding around the block twenty times. Street riding is ok, just not with the broodlings. I need to find a carrier for at least 4 bikes. Or a trailer. Maybe the short bus.

    I have noticed the refusal of my six pack to display itself after a good ride. I believe it is in there, just well disguised, camoflaged even.

    Hilly doesn’t really describe our section of Ohio. Most of the riding I have done finds elevation changes to be subtle. Just enough to give the youngest trouble when he’s learning to ride with training wheels. Or to force you to downshift to maintain cadence.

    I suspect you bought a rack for your bike at one of your excursions? I do believe a defibrillator would fit. Just trying to save you the expense of a trailer.

  2. The fender was necessary to prevent a wet and/or muddy stripe up my back on my ride to work. Though I still have the fender somewhere in the garage, it is no longer installed on the bike.

    I never bought a rack for the bike itself. I often contemplated replacing the fender with just that, but never got around to it. Recently, I’ve seen links to the Arkel Bug, a pannier that costs more than my bike did. “Pannier” is apparently fancy-talk for “saddlebag.”

  3. Oh, yes the bike to work concept. One wouldn’t want a nasty stripe up one’s back over there, eh? Lil’ Sis does that now, albeit with a new bike as she was relieved of the reponsibilities associated with her mountain bike.

    The Euros refer to them as panniers, probably a snob-hill expression here, as touring bicyclists can also be elitists. US Motorcyclists (esp Harleys) refer to them as saddle bags.

  4. One of the things I bought that first summer was a gel seat, which is much nicer than the seat that came with the bike. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but I don’t regret spending the money.

    My posterior doesn’t much care for bike seats, whether they’ve got gel cushioning or not. The gel alleviates some, but certainly not all, of the discomfort.

    When Lance Armstrong had his cancerous testicle removed, there was a bit of flap because some of his competitors apparently felt that the drugs used to help treat the cancer might also be enhancing his performance. They took the wrong tack on the whole thing, if you ask me. The real benefit to a biker having a testicle removed is that his testicle is removed. Under normal circumstances, I do not wish any harm to come to my testicles. While biking on Saturday, however, I could see how having one less would certainly be to my advantage.

  5. Bring water next time you fool. If my office didn’t have a shower I wouldn’t be a snobby bike commuter this summer as no one wants their co-worker stinking up the place with her extrememly sweaty self.

  6. Re: Water

    I had removed the water bottle mount from my bike intending to remount it along with my new Schwinn portable pump. I ran into two problems.

    First, the Schwinn pump sucks serious ass. Either that, or I’m an idiot. Whatever the case, my attempts to inflate the tires with this pump bore no fruit (or inflated tires).

    Second, the pump mount was meant to be used with a wire water bottle mount. My bike has a plastic one. When the two mounts were combined, the screws weren’t long enough to fasten them to the frame.

    Also, I was doing all this mounting at the last minute and wound up running late. In my haste to begin biking, I forgot to re-mount the water bottle.

    I need a new water bottle, anyway. I mean, the one that came with the bike is black (to match the bike). That gives it a certain Knight Rider chic, but pretty much boils the water inside after 20 minutes in the hot sun.

  7. Indeed, “sissy” has effeminate overtones. “Wuss” begs consideration. The possibility does exist of “metrosexual”, as it does at least give the facade of manliness.

    Water, especially in the weather we’ve been experiencing, becomes a necessity. I have a clip-on plastic water bottle mount. As my water bottle does heat up profusely even late in the day with a white bottle, yours must indeed become brackish after even a short ride. I hear the newer bottles made of Lexan and the like don’t accumulate a plasic presence in the water, but finding one to fit your mount…

    I was to purchase a gel seat for the road bike, but I was told the relief was short-lived and the end result on ones backside the same. As to the removal of a testicle, that’s a bit extreme for the amount of comfort gained. Indeed, why stop at one? Used to always get into trouble for doing things half-assed.

    I thought Lil’ sis bought a road bike, and therefore wouldn’t have snobbies on it.

    Technohippybiker could probably recommend a decent inexpensive pump if properly queried, since he has been more active in the field than either of us lately.

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