One of the things that I wanted to do once I retired was to get back to biking.
I actually have a fairly nice bike that I got as an award for my 25-year work anniversary from my previous employer so I really didn’t have an excuse not to. I can’t recall when was the last time I rode this bike but I know it has been at least two years.
But in spite of this being on my list of things I wanted to do, and in spite of my seeing it every time I went into the garage, I just had not gotten around to taking the bike off the wall where it has hung for all this time.
But then my brother retired at the end of June and suddenly he was texting me to say that he was off on 20 mile bike rides; and here I had been retired for eight months and hadn’t pedaled at all.
First order of business was to air up my tires, which due to disuse were almost flat. I already had a helmet and gloves so I was set there. I just needed to figure out where I was going to go. But that actually was fairly easy to figure out.
A number of years ago, Memphis opened one of its first Rails-to-Trails projects starting at Shelby Farms and running westward 6.5 miles to midtown Memphis. Known as the Shelby Farms Greenline, the paved trail was recently extended along the same old rail line eastward into Cordova an additional 4.15 miles terminating at a point less than 2 miles from my house.
Setting off from my house early that Sunday morning, I was excited to actually be biking again after so many years. To reach the trailhead, I mostly pedaled through our quiet neighborhood and only had to ride on a busy two-lane road a few hundred yards.
I immediately fell in love with the trail.
I found it to be a nicely shaded, very smoothly paved trail. Every half mile, there was a mile marker so that you would know where you were on the trail as well as how far you had ridden.
With few exceptions, it is relatively flat maintaining the minimal grade change that a train can handle. This made for very easy biking. To be sure that I did not overdo it this first time, I decided to ride to the 0.0-mile marker (beginning point for East and West trails) and turn around. Thus I knew that I had biked at least 8.3 miles plus the distance to and from my house.
My bike previously had a speedometer/odometer but it somehow got lost over the period of non-use. So it wasn’t until afterwards when I clocked the distance in my car from our house to the trail head that I knew what distance I had actually ridden that first time: 12.3 miles. It was a most enjoyable ride but with one exception, a sore behind.
I unfortunately remembered the least desirable part of biking was getting saddle sore. Over my next couple of rides along the same route, I tried with and without a gel cover that my wife used to use. I found that it was slightly better with the gel cover but not by much (probably why my wife quit using it). So I figured I either had to fatten up my behind, find something more comfortable, or just hope that with additional biking, my body would just get acclimated to it.
On the occasion when my wife joined me on a bike ride, she didn’t seem to notice that I had her discarded seat cover.
One purchase that I did decide to make was buying a new speedometer/odometer.
This particular one tracks my riding time, distance, speed, average speed, and maximum speed. Now I had a way to compare one bike ride to another to see if I was making progress.
I also found that using my running shoes with their wide sole didn’t fit very well on my pedals. I thought I could buy special biking shoes but then I remembered I had bought some driving shoes that I never wore that might work out well. They did.
My only other purchase was a pouch to carry my phone in case of an emergency (mine not someone else’s).
I am an avid Fitbitter and I had read that while biking, it did not accurately track your steps but then I ran across a story where someone had strapped their Fitbit band around their ankle rather than their arm. I came up with the idea of just attaching my Fitbit Zip to my shoelaces, which seemed to work well.
With all my new gear, I began biking twice a week (I still ran twice a week and worked out with weights twice a week) and quickly got into a groove. I averaged between a 12.2 and 12.4 mile per hour pace for the 12.3 miles I biked.
This took me just under an hour and so I decided to compare my pace to a marathon runner. Sadly I figured out that a first place finisher would RUN, not bike, an average pace of 12.6 miles per hour for over two hours!
While my maximum speed had been over 22 miles per hour, I could see I was never going to compete with a marathon runner. Oh well bad comparison.
After a couple of months, in spite of missing biking due to travel, I felt like I was making some progress. And then my brother blew me away when he texted me to say that he had just finished a 34-mile bike ride. Now I knew I needed to up my game!
Considering that I am a regular runner, I figured my ability to bike longer distances would be less about what my legs could endure pedaling but rather more about what my derriere could bear.
On my next outing, I added an extra two miles by riding to the western 1.0-mile marker. It was a nice downhill addition although not as shaded as the eastern section I had ridden on many times. Which meant my extra mile back was all uphill. But I managed to tackle the additional mileage without too much trouble.
At this pace, it will be a while before I get up to a 34-mile ride but I have another goal in mind.
Every year I travel to Amsterdam to teach, a city and country known for bicycles. On one of our off days, the person I teach with occasionally rents a bike and takes an all-day bike ride throughout Holland.
This year, he actually asked me if I wanted to join him but knowing that I hadn’t biked in years, I declined.
So my goal now is to continue my biking through the winter and then be ready for a daylong bike ride. After having been to Amsterdam so many times, this will give me a whole new way to experience this fun little country. And maybe now that my brother has also retired, he will join me on a Holland bike tour!