Special to the Democrat
Sometime in the distant past most of us learned to ride a bicycle Ñ and once you learn itÕs with you forever.
We everywhere for no other reason than it was fun Ñ even with the occasional crash. Everyone crashes sooner or later. We had races, leisurely rides from here to there, rode to school, and then, for some of us, to work. Not everyone had a car and even if you had access to one it didnÕt mean you could actually drive it when you wanted to.
We rode bikes at college and university. I even bought an old clunker and rode it around while I was in the army. But sometime between graduation from college or trade school our riding days became fewer. If the route you chose was marriage and children that changed everything.
Simply finding time to ride, even if both you and your spouse rode, became more difficult. Not till the kids were old enough to ride without training wheels were you able to go out with the family. We mostly rode at the local school or on bike path. ItÕs dangerous to take a youngster on the open road Ñ and depending on the road, you have to be nuts to take yourself on a road. The occasional ride became non-existent for many of us.
As we rolled through the years the children grew up, moved out and went off to pursue college, a trade school or the military. With more free time some of us attempted to get back or stay in shape. Exercise didnÕt rule our lives, but was at least a part of it.
We ran, biked, walked, skied, took up karate, jumped rope, or some combination of things, all with an eye to being fit. And Ñ some of us rode the couch ignoring the steady decline of any level of fitness.
It doesnÕt matter which group you were in. But hopefully one day you realized that time was not actually your best friend anymore and gaining some ground on being fit and healthy took on more importance. On the way to this realization things crept up on us. It took some years, but that why itÕs called Òcreeping upÓ as opposed to Òlook out, itÕs here.Ó
We found out that perhaps we were a bit more stiff than we remembered. Any exercise that pounded the joints like running or jumping rope had to be shared with a bottle of aspirin and the thought that this just may not be worth it. ThatÕs when cycling came back to mind as a way to exercise without beating up our joints.
Bikes have come a long way over the years. TheyÕre much better and there are many more types and styles to choose. The basic choice is between a mountain bike or a road bike.
Road bikes are what they ride on the Tour de France. Mountain bikes are more rugged and will take more of a pounding. They weigh more than road bikes, have fatter tires and take more energy to pedal.
Road bikes are lighter with skinny tires and donÕt do well off-road. Both styles have multiple gears, great brakes and can be cheap or reasonable, or very, very, expensive.
One of the reasons you see so many mature folks on bikes is simple economics. Good bikes arenÕt cheap. The boomer generation may be a bit gray and grumpy, but we tend to have a bigger chunk of disposable income. If the old bike is just a bit too rusted to ride after all these years, invest in a new one.
ItÕs best to go to a good bike shop for your new bike. Most of the employees actually ride bikes and will able to advise you about what kind of bike you need. TheyÕll want to know about you and the kind of riding that interests you.
They try not to laugh, but the occasional guffaw does burst out. Think nothing of it Ñ they have vivid imaginations. Their goal is to fit you with a bike that will serve you best.
I have a mountain bike with a lot of gears. I love those gears. They make it possible for me to ride around Pollock Pines quite well. No gears, no ride for me. While I donÕt actually ride off trail through the woods, or plummet down old flume trails on the sides of a mountains, I do ride off the pavement quite a lot and a road bike wouldnÕt last.
If you plan to ride exclusively on paved trails or roads, you may end up with a road bike. Road bikes are the ones that always pass the mountain bikers no matter where you are or how fast youÕre going. Road-bikers often come in groups.
The wheels are bigger, the tires skinnier for less friction and the bike itself is skinnier, weighs less and has just as many gears. Cyclists ride hunched over for less wind resistance so, pedal for pedal, they are faster.
If you are over 50 and have been riding the couch for a long time, have a chat with your doctor before you leap into exercise. Starting with a 50 mile ride will make you wish you hadnÕt. Instead, start off with a reasonable 30-minute ride on gentle terrain.
The American River trail in Sacramento is a great place and locally, the paved portion of the El Dorado Trail is very good as well. Once that becomes easier and youÕre able to breathe normally at the end, add another 10 minutes.
Slow down if you gasp for breath and feel like you are hauling a blimp with you. Remember you are riding for better health, fun and a good lunch when youÕre done. YouÕll gradually be able ride for an hour, even on hills Ñ and in El Dorado County, you will mostly be on hills with an occasional flat spot right before you come to something that looks like Mt. Ralston.
Once you can ride comfortably for an hour, add more time, hills and speed to your routine.