Last year my friends Mike and Steve started to ask me to ride with them. We started to ride, almost every Sunday and one or two evenings a week through the spring, summer and fall. Steve began to log and journal his trips, alone and with Mike, Robbie and me on a web page called Bike with Mike. Steve’s log says that I rode with him on April 20 last year. I don’t clearly remember that trip. I remember joining them for evening rides in early May and then for Sunday rides.
They had started to ride regularly over the last couple of years before 2003, although they weren’t riding more than a few hundred kilometers in a year. That was about to change for all three of us.
I had a hard time learning to ride a bike as a child. I was not coordinated and I was timid. The bike that my parents could afford was too big. I learned to ride when I was 12 or 13. It was liberation, to be able to ride and be alone and feel the air, the sunlight, and the rain. There was period of time in my early and mid 20’s when I bought a real road bike, and made regular rides on Henderson Highway to Lockport with some friends. That dropped off after I got married (1983) when I began to go to my wife’s family cottage 8 or 10 weekends a summer, and with the demands of home maintenance and family life on the other summer weekends. Over the years I got idle and put on weight. I was at a good healthy weight of 135 pounds when I was active and fit before 1983. I was at least 170 pounds last spring and I think my old bathroom scale may not have told the story accurately.
I got a mountain bike about 10 years ago – a Giant Yukon, aluminum frame, no shock. A basic bike, but a sound and well made one with serviceable components. I used it to ride around town with my children, and I took it on camping trips to the Rockies and used it a bit on those trips.
Last year, when Mike and Steve first began to invite me to ride, my wife was in the process of telling me that she wanted a divorce. We reconciled after a few weeks of discussion, with some changes on my part. I was depressed at the time, in those circumstances. I was also blaming myself over the marriage breakdown, and I believed that I had alienated my wife by letting myself become unhealthy and depressed. I think it is fair to say that I had become withdrawn and perhaps mildly depressed, that I had become overweight, that I was drinking more than was healthy.
At first I used the bike rides as a way to burn calories and as a change in the patterns and routines of my life. In the course of the summer – I lost a month due to surgery in August – I lost 20 pounds. I did not gain it back. In fact I lost a little more over the winter. I will probably be down to my old weight in a couple more months of riding.
I began to avoid having a drink to relax or to unwind. I still have beer with the guys at the end cycling trips, and sometimes wine or beer with a special meal or a cocktail at a party or to celebrate the weekend. I have had a number of shocks and stresses that could have pushed me back into depression or into drinking more, but that hasn’t happened.
As time went on, I realized that cycling with my friends was the right way to spend time, to enjoy my health, to receive the support and companionship of my friends and that is was important in keeping my life in motion. My friends and my rides sustained me through my efforts to reconcile with my wife, and through the bitter hard time when my son (he was just turning 16 in September) ran away to live on the street, an addict to drugs and to his nihilist vision of freedom away from parental control. My riding gave me back the confidence of being fit and the joy of good health.
Spring has come and we have started riding again. We rode in Bird’s Hill Park, last Sunday March 28. We went for a ride in the City yesterday, April 4 Steve has started to mention some trips in his new blog. He has revived his Bike with Mike page. He has been using his trip pictures and some by Mike. In the March 28 and April 4 pics Steve is wearing a grey helmet and yellow shell, Mike is under the red helmet wearing a blue fleece vest, Robbie is the black helmet and red top, and I am under the red helmet wearing the orange shell.