Riding In Place

Those wacky bicyclists are an eccentric bunch.

I say that with admiration — I have friends who routinely hop on their bikes and ride out to, say, Montauk on a whim and then race home, covering 50 miles and averaging God knows how many miles per hour.

I’m afraid it’s a rich man’s game nowadays. Remember when we were kids? We had one gear. Later in life, the ritzy three-speeds made the scene, followed by English racers, which were neither English nor racing bikes. Now they have 10 speeds and more.

That would confuse me — I had trouble mastering the little bell on the handlebar back when I rode.

Nevertheless, I went shopping for a bike after my doctor told me if I didn’t get more exercise, I would probably die. Actually, he told me if I didn’t pay my overdue bill, he would kill me, but the net result is the same.

My friend Artie suggested I get a Colnago C 64. So, I went to Walmart and the guy there laughed. It turns out you don’t get a Colnago in a store like that. I went to a real bicycle shop. The model my friend Artie has retails for $6199. Whhhhhhat? “Yes. It’s Italian.”

Oh. So, the Italians spend all this money developing bicycles that sell for six grand? Maybe they should have put all that technology into making weapons. That way the Italian army might have lasted longer than two weeks in World War II. But I digress.

The six grand is just the beginning. You have to buy parts and tools and gear. In fact, there were 10 pages of items for sale. One was a back wheel — I kid you not. You mean, you are spending six grand on a bike and the wheel is optional? Then there is the tool kit. Folks, if I spend this kind of money on a bicycle and it needs mechanical work, it’s going into the shop and I’m getting a loaner.

You have to purchase the requisite riding outfit, which is a rubber suit made in some combination of garish colors like purple and orange. The skintight, airtight outfit cuts air resistance, allowing you to maximize speed. The suits do not let any air in — or any air out.

Consider the plight of a healthy male, having ingested a perfectly proper Cajun or Tex Mex lunch. Where does the gas go on that 25-mile jaunt to Montauk? It would great if you could supercharge the bike with it.

Sure, as the doctor recommended, cycling allowed you to lose 25 pounds of excess weight. What is left unsaid is you’ll have to get your right leg from the knee down amputated because the suit was so tight blood stopped flowing to the feet.

Then there is the helmet, which is shaped like an ant’s head. Now that works well for an ant, but not for a human. It just draws attention to the ugly costume.

Bicyclists nowadays don’t actually go anywhere.

“Wanna take a ride down to the park?”

“Sure, what’s going on there?”

“Nothing. Just take a ride and come back.”

My thought is, “Why go to begin with? Just chill out on the couch.”

Of course, you don’t need a bicycle to get around. You can run. But this has developed into an art form as well. It used to be you had a destination: “Mom, I’m going to run over to Billy’s.” This accomplished two things; it got you to your friend’s house, and your mom knew where you were. “Mom, I’m gonna run to the candy store.”

“OK, little Rick, just don’t let them catch you looking at those dirty magazines.”

Today’s runners are aimless. “I’m gonna get a run in.”

“Where ya going?”

“Around the block.”

Why? If you run around the block you’ll end up in the same place you started from. So why go in the first place?

Running has become pricey as well. There are special shorts, shirts that absorb sweat — and who among us doesn’t want one of those? — and of course, those socks. Don’t look dumb, guys, you know the ones. The kind Chrissie Evert wore. With pom poms on. The ones that don’t cover your ankle. In other words, the kind that embarrasses all men who bow instead of curtsy. I’ll say no more.

Hey, I’m cognizant of the fact that as we get older we need more exercise. I guess I’ll just have to find a hobby that I enjoy. I’m thinking stamp collecting, but I’m going to ease it in slowly: You try and do too much too soon, you can do more harm than good.

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