Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Rider looks at 58


MIDLIFE BIKE CRISIS

BY

JOHN MATNEY


            I’ve always been an active boy that hated being indoors. So much so that I would bawl like the baby I was when my Mom forced me to stay indoors.  My sister would cry equally as loud when she was forced into the outdoors. My Mom told me this when I was 55.  God bless my Mother.
            When I was 4, my parents gave me a nice little red bike for Christmas. I remember two things about that bike. First, I threw a tantrum when my Dad wanted to put on training wheels and second,  I put the bike in the gutter and pushed it scooter style until I was going fast enough to start pedaling.  The other presents were left unopened as I went around the block a hundred times or so. 
            The clock keeps moving forward. To riding a road bike at the University of Oregon as cross training to my running. To my bike collecting dust while taking the kids to their swim practices and soccer tames. Onto the entering the hurt city of divorce where I learned to love riding my bike because it was free and riding the hills kept me from thinking about being broke and away from my kids.
I bought them bikes and we rode together at the fun rides at the Sea Otter and the local parks. All went well until they discovered boyfriends,  shopping and could drive themselves around.
            Fast forward to age 57. The kids are grown and are in great shape, mentally and emotionally.  I’ve remarried and now ride with the wife and go for mountain bike rides and long road bike rides on my own. The only interfering with putting in the miles that I’d like is this pesky little thing called a job. But, Karma had a solution. It is called eliminating my position.  That would be the downside. The upside would be a package of 6 months pay and having my days free to do what I want, with the wife’s blessing.
            Sure, I could buy the sportscar, but I really like my Passat.  Not interested in dating other women because my wife is such an adorable lovely.  Don’t watch tv. So, what’s left is more opportunities to get on the bike.  It’s what happened afterward that surprised me.
            Take my first ride up to the summit of Mt. Diablo.  It was a weekday morning. Early enough that it was hot, late enough that the commute traffic was gone.  Wearing my lycra for the first time in ages-GO DUCKS!  I rode towards the base, not seeing other cyclists for the most part. Perfect, I thought, it will be a nice quiet solo ride.
            NOT!  As I got closer to the North Gate entrance,  I came upon some people on their bikes.  Men and women of a certain vintage.  Hmmm-I began to note a trend. Namely that almost all of the cyclists had several things in common. First, they rode nice bikes.  I mean nice bikes as in carbon fiber, made in Italy with Campy or Dura Ace components. I felt under biked on my Specialized with its aluminum Columbus frame and Ultegra components.  
            The other thing I noticed was that they were all smiling and they returned my hellos. Now this surprised me.  I am a mountain biker first and the image of the snobby grumpy roadie still resides in the back of my dusty mind.  I mean, that very morning I spent 15 minutes debating whether to wear my Zoic shorts or some lycra. Something was quite right-nobody could be this happy.
            I rode on, using the granny gear to save my 50 year old knees and wheezed my way up the ramp to the top.  I chatted up the other riders while we filled up the water bottles and learned that they too had had “life changes” and instead of buying the Vette, bought a 5 figure road bike.  Clearly they were the 1%.  Me, I’d have to sell the car to buy a bike like theirs.
            But the more I talked to them, the more any class resentment left my consciousness. I realized that we were bikers.  We loved bikes.  We have common enemies-cars and the people who drive them, politicians who want to ban bikers from singletrack and so called urban planners who never consider having bike lanes within the city.  I think it’s impossible to hate someone who would rather be pedaling than looting, whether its pension funds, mortgage loans or the planet.
            Say what you will about baby boomers, we do care about the planet. we do like our fun and we don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive.  I wish the best for my children and the young people just starting their careers.  On the rare occasions they ask me for advice about work-I like to say “find something you love and you’ll be successful.”  I’m hoping that they have their mid-bike crisis right now instead of when they reach my age.