Saturday, February 22, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

In the year 2000, I was 20 years old. Somehow, I fooled a local police department into believing I was a competent enough human to be responsible for answering 911 calls and for dispatching grown men with guns to locations all over the city. I did that job for 3 years, primarily on the overnight shift, which meant I typically arrived home after 10-12 hour shifts around 7:30am. Thanks to shift differentials, overtime, and low overhead (living with my parents), I made lots of money, fast. What does a 20 year old boy pretending to be a grownup buy with extra money? Toys.

One of my earliest purchases was a mountain bike. I was in school at UCF for Psychology, aiming at being some kind of law enforcement officer. The bike was to help me keep fit enough to get through the academy, once I got there. I had a mountain bike all through middle and high school, which got plenty of use, but I wanted something newer and shinier. Not knowing anything about bikes, I went to Toys R Us and bought a decent bike, thankfully, based more on cosmetic criteria than function. One plan was to ride on Cocoa Beach, the closest beach to my job, to catch the sunrises over the water. Little did I know, that riding in soft sand on a mountain bike is very tiring, very fast. That didn't stop me from enjoying the bike and sunrises on sidewalks close to the beach, however.

A Pacific Quasar, to be exact.
My parents were building a new house, one of the first to be completed in that development, about a year into my ownership of the Toys R Us mountain bike. I moved into nocturnal Floridian mountain bike heaven. There were paved streets and street lights surrounding acres and acres of cleared lots. There were piles of rocks, gravel, dirt hills, trees, and some dirt paths where the roads weren't completed yet. The few completed houses were inhabited by retired golfers and the like, so I had the streets to myself, undisturbed for hours of my over-nights off, since I was quiet and didn't vandalize anything but myself.

That year of hard, late night riding is really where the love affair with bikes started. At the age of 22, I paused UCF and started massage school part time in addition to my 50+ hour weeks at the police department. My free nights started drifting away from the bike and towards study and extra-curricular practical massage credit events. Once I met my future wife in massage school and had a license, life quickly accelerated into a move to Tallahassee after the wedding. We moved my bike with us, because I had such sentimental attachment to it. Knowing now what I know about bikes, I should have chucked it in a Goodwill bin, but instead I kept trying to repair and tweak a lost cause. I literally had ridden it into the ground, back on the empty lots in Viera.

I was in hilly Tallahassee for 5 years with a non-functional bike, getting fat at a desk job, and having no fun anytime I tried to go for a ride. Then we moved to Tampa, again with the bikes (the Wifey had one almost as sad as mine), and then to Land o Lakes, where they sat in yet another garage being rusty and treacherous. Finally, we sold them at a garage sale before moving back to Tampa a few months ago. Talk about liberation!

Because of ridiculous auto insurance rates in Tampa and because Wifey works from home, we decided to become a 1 car family. We started shopping for a bicycle for her to get around the neighborhood, if she needed something while I was at work. Then, while talking to her mother about the situation, we discover that Mom wanted to buy us BOTH bikes for Christmas. My wife's preference was to get the most simple, single gear bike possible, a beach cruiser. My preference was to get the most complicated thing possible- more gears, more gadgets, a hybrid road bike.

Lance Armstrong
This is the part where I say explicitly that my Wife was RIGHT and I was WRONG. We ended up with matching, super cute beach cruisers which I love. Simple is better. We live in an apartment and I don't want to keep up with a bunch of tools and crap to constantly adjust and maintain a complicated bike. We live in Florida, which is flat everywhere we would possible go on our bikes. When we rack them on the car and drive to the beach, they are totally usable at the beach. The point is, I made a fundamental shift in how I saw myself. I am a "Bicyclist" and not a "Cyclist." This is a hobby, a leisure activity, not a sport. I'm not racing anybody, I don't take PED's and I don't wear spandex or special shoes.

I am also a grownup now. I am not a college student or a punk teenager trying to keep the dream alive by applying a skater mentality to dirt biking in suburbia. I now have a bike and an attitude which match my life. My default attitude is laid back, relaxed, at peace- taking life as it comes at me. I want a bike that reflects that, not a tool to aggressively attack the road with "hammering." A big part of my love of biking is that I find peace in that activity, which is the antithesis of competition. That's not to say I don't have personal goals, which I'll get to in another post soon, but that I want to use a bicycle as a tool to enjoy my environment, to find relaxation and stress relief, and to stay fit.

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