Why a fish out of water needs a bike | TheUnion.com

Why a fish out of water needs a bike

Mike Drummond, Columnist
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Hiking and biking may rhyme, but they are not the same thing. What my wife and I do out here at Clear Creek Ranch can’t even be called hiking. Walking is more like it. A casual stroll, a morning constitutional – without a Bill of Rights as far as I am concerned. Certainly no right to bare arms, unless they are properly slathered in sunscreen.

We plod three miles each morning before breakfast. It takes about an hour on moderately level ground. There isn’t much of that around. Almost nothing is on the level up here in the foothills, starting with the politicians.

Things get monotonous if you take the same path every day. So when I read an article by a reporter who rode his bicycle from one side of the Sierra to the other, I decided to try to cover a little more ground during our daily jaunts – while sitting down.

As you may recall, my sudden interest in exercise was triggered by my low (yes, low) cholesterol levels. My wife did the math and decreed that I’d need to do two hours on a bike to get the same benefit as an hour a-foot. And since a-wheel I’d be traveling at a great rate of speed, I’d be covering a lot more ground, like 30 miles at a pop. And that meant either the same old routes, at 10 reps a day, or new ground altogether.

Our childhood Schwinns have been hanging in the barn for years, decades actually. They had those old-fashioned white-wall ballon tires. You’ve seen the sad state of a party balloon the morning after? Imagine 30 years after. When I tapped the tires to check the air pressure, they dissolved into mounds of erasure crumbs on the barn floor. Perhaps new bikes were in order.

I’ve always extended H.D.Thoreau’s admonishment “Beware any enterprise that requires new clothes” to include “new anything.” But my health was involved, so I decided to window shop at least. These days you can customize every aspect of bicycling.

Call me a fundamentalist – I started with the bicycle seat. They are gel-filled now, and the experience is so intimate that a long cuddle and some conversation are required before you and your bicycle can go your separate ways at the end of a pleasant ride.

Proper cycling duds can set you back more than the cost of Thoreau’s cabin. A flow-thru ventilation helmet at $150 is more than I’d budget for an entire bike. The form-fitting nylon/Lycra/Spandex cycling shorts weren’t so bad (if I didn’t look at my profile in the mirror), but heavily padded under-shorts are also required. That would put another layer of distance between me and my bicycle seat, which I am beginning to suspect is seating someone else.

Then there is hydration. The way I perspire on our short walks, I’ll go through several gallons of water on a 30-mile trek. CamelBak has a six-gallon backpack (weight: 50 pounds) that seems serviceable, although I’ll need to attach some sort of trailer to the bike to support it. And I’ll need a computerized cylometer that monitors up to 42 hours of heart rate info, doubles as an altimeter, plugs into my PC, and can chart my pedal revolutions per minute.

Or maybe I’ll forget the whole bicycling thing and just get the padded underwear. Barishnikov’s bulging ballet-boy codpiece would have nothing on me. Won’t do much about my cholesterol, but it should do wonders for my self-esteem.

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at miked@theunion.com.

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