More than a Wheeling

I bought my first bike in over twenty years last week.

I’ve always enjoyed cycling, but never really thought much about it once I started working in radio in the early ’90s. There’s a cycling culture that never fails to turn me off, starting with bike shorts and ending with high-speed snobbery on the Lake Michigan bike trail. I’ve seen far too many Type A jagoffs indignantly blast past runners and–God forbid–families on bike trails to make the idea of cycling all that attractive to me.

A few things changed my mind recently. First was the fact that I hate public transportation. I’ve avoided taking the El more than my pocketbook can forgive lately, leaving me in great need of another communting option. Second was the fact that I actually do enjoy getting on a bike and riding. It’s a fantastic, zen-like, feeling, and I can’t believe I’ve lived without it for quite some time. Finally, I wanted to be able to go to my local bike shop and say the words “saddlebags,” “pump,” and “kickstand” without a trace of self-amusement.

I ordered the bike two Sundays ago and picked it up last Wednesday. After wrestling with the front wheel detachment for a solid 30 minutes in implausibly brutal humidity, I vaselined my new ride into my old ride, a reasonably-sized station wagon. Feeling like I’d just mastered advanced-level Physics, I slid my sweaty self into my car and took my bike home.

It was way too hot to ride when I took it out, but I was still anxious to give it a spin. Sweating to the point where I looked less than human and more like an extra from “The Devil’s Rejects,” I reattached the front wheel and got jumped on. Something was wrong. The wheel wasn’t “true.” It was totally cockeyed. Except it wasn’t the wheel. It was the handlebars. In jamming the bike into my station wagon, I somehow cranked the handlebars out of alignment. What I needed was a wrench; a huge freaking wrench. As previously mentioned in my blog, I’m not very handy. I own no such wrench. I went inside, showered, and vowed to get a wrench later in the week.

I never got the wrench. Instead, I got hold of a handy neighbor who set my bike straight. As soon as it was fixed, I hit the road.

Days later, I rode the bike downtown to work; many miles from home. Keep in mind, I hadn’t been on a bike in many years. By the time I hit the lakefront trail, I was praying for death. By the time I hit Navy Pier, I was willing to speed the process up by riding into oncoming traffic. Somehow only minutes later, I’d made it to work. My ass felt like it had been on a belt sander for an hour and my thighs felt like they had tensed up, post-mortem style, but I made it all the way to work.

Bring on the bike shorts. I’m ready to be a “ON YOUR LEFT” yelling, type-A, jagoff.

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