Guest Columnist - John Ropa
Posted: September 16, 2011
As a generally sedentary septuagenarian, I realize that I need more exercise if I want to become an octogenarian. Consequently, I was pleased when my kids, agreeing with my objectives, presented me with a new bicycle. You never forget how to ride a bicycle, according to my kids and many others. However, this bike had a gear shift and hand brakes, neither of which I recognized.
It had been 45 years since I parked my Schwinn for the last time, the year in which I receive my driver's license. Nevertheless, I too, believed that you never forget how to ride a bike, so I figured that I would use it to good purpose. Fortunately, on the day of the gift, it was raining too hard to try. Since the kids' stay was short and they were on their way, I promised I would begin a bicycle regimen on the first sunny day.
True to my word, the next morning I decided to go for a ride. Starting up was easy, but I quickly figured out that I needed gear one to transverse the hill leading away from my house, and I also learned that I couldn't make it all the way up. I dismounted and walked the bike to the top. Just past the crest, I remounted and then learned that if I wanted to start on a downhill run, I had better have my hands on the brakes.
As I streaked through my neighbor's newly-seeded front lawn, I could feel wet dirt hitting me in the back. I finally understood the function of fenders. Negotiating back to the road, I took a deep breath and started over. Coasting was wonderful and the breeze in my helmet felt great. However, I suddenly noticed that the front wheel was shaking badly. I stopped and pulled over to the side of the road. Nothing seemed to be wrong with the wheel, though I learned what the problem was: My hands were shaking. In spite of the pleasure, I was scared to death.
When my hands stopped vibrating, I got back on the bike and continued on the long, downhill run. I had to remember to occasionally use the brakes because pedaling in reverse had no affect on the speed I was attaining. I turned to look behind me to see if any cars were intruding on my space and, in doing so, I must have pulled the handlebars to the right. Careening over a curb, I luckily landed in a soft spot, so I didn't break anything.
Once home, I spent several hours building a rack on which I could place the bike and ride for hours without endangering myself. And I modified the truism: "You never forget how to ride your old bike"
Ropa retired after 20 years in the International Division of Abbott Laboratories. His e-mail address is: J.Ropa@yahoo.com