In January 1981, my father gave me a Schwinn kiddie bike for my sixth birthday. I was ecstatic. The fact that the day in which I took delivery was so cold that cars would not start, and flashers took to just describing themselves to their intended victims, was irrelevant. My excitement made me invulnerable to the mercury. With no regard to a coat, a helmet, or common sense I hopped on my new bike and rode. I rode like the wind, soaring at least three feet before the flimsy training wheels acquiesced to my absurdly wayward posture. The whole routine was magnificent; I easily fell twenty more times before calling it a day—deeming my aggregate twenty-seven feet of forward movement a splendorous success. My red Schwinn was like Ralphie’s Red Ryder BB Gun; it was perfect. Never mind that it was used, beat up, and banausic at best; it did not matter. I stayed with that Schwinn for several years. With the help of my now late grandfather, I even gave it a complete mechanical and cosmetic overhaul during its midlife—my first foray into bicycle maintenance. It was not until I hit my early teens that I graduated to a candy blue Huffy ten speed. It too, just like my Schwinn, was a brilliant piece of mechanical excellence. The actuality that its brake pads did not stay aligned, its derailleurs often did not work, and that it weighed only slightly less than a Buick Roadmaster was just part of its charm.
Shortly after graduating high school my father again gave me a new bike, just like he had done some twelve years earlier. His timing was fortuitous; my Huffy had grown to be little more than a mess of bilious parts. The new bike was a “custom fabrication,” or so my father professed. To me, other than its mint green satin paint and stenciled “Harley Davidson” decal, it looked strikingly similar to my Huffy. Whatever its pedigree, it served me well. I once was even able to convince a woman to come back to my tiny apartment to see my “Harley,” though sadly she did not ask for a ride, in any sense.
The buttermint-green Harley got me through to my mid twenties. At twenty-six my father, for the third time, gave me a new bicycle. It was an exciting day. The new bike could not beat the sentimental charm of the Schwinn, or even the recondite Harley; but, it easily beat both in terms of quality. It was a Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike.
To this day, at thirty-seven years old, I still have the Specialized. I finally gave it its first complete overhaul just last summer. Also in my personal fleet is a Novara road bike—the only bike other than my candy blue Huffy that I have ever paid for. Though my Specialized is 142 years old in bike years, and my Novara road bike is only “entry-level decent”–it has an aluminum frame, a carbon fiber fork, and Tiagra components–they both serve me well.
In the truest sense, I am avid cyclist—a trait finally honed over thirty years. Even though I do not have a modern full suspension mountain bike, or a several thousand dollar meretricious carbon fiber road racer with Dura-Ace components, I do not shy away from frequent, challenging, rides and races. I have put thousands of miles on every bike I have owned. I simply love to ride.
Beyond being infinitely enjoyable, cycling is incredibly good exercise. It is low impact on joints, and you can easily burn anywhere from 500 to over 1,000 calories per hour if you maintain a decent pedaling cadence. I implore everyone to ride, and to ride often. Hop on your red beater Schwinn and channel your inner child. Laugh in the face of weather; find the Zen in connecting body to machine.
Following is an ever-growing section, that for perspicuous reason, I call “Recommended Rides.” Every week on Tuesdays I will post within it details on a fantastic ride. My entries will be varied—road rides, trail rides, short, long, easy, difficult, etc. Ultimately, my goal is to highlight at least one ride in every state of the US; then, I will start looking internationally. This ride “wiki” will be made even better if readers contribute. If you wish to share details and pictures of a ride you recommend, please email me at email@example.com. Full author credit and linking will be given.
- Schnebly Hill Trail (Sedona): 21.5 miles, moderate to difficult, mountain bikes only (added Tuesday, 3/20/12)
- Eureka Canyon (Santa Cruz): 48 miles, moderate intensity, mountain or road bikes [links to external site ] (added Tuesday, 3/27/12)
- The Fruit Loops (Boulder): 44 miles, moderate intensity—fairly flat, mountain or road bikes [links to external site ] (added Tuesday, 5/1/12)
- Bridger Canyon (Bozeman), about 40-45 miles round-trip, moderate intensity, 1,400 foot elevation change, road or mountain bike [links to external site ] (added Tuesday, 4/17/12)
- Taos Enchanted Circle: 89 miles, high intensity 4,100 foot elevation change, road or mountain bike [links to external site ] (added Tuesday, 3/13/12)
- Banks to Vernonia Trail (close to Portland): up to 42 miles, moderate intensity, mountain or road bikes, kid-friendly (added Tuesday, 3/13/12)
- Nemo to Vanocker (close to Rapid City): up to 34 miles, high intensity, mountain or road bikes (added Tuesday, 4/24/12)
- Lake Pat Loop (close to Cleburne): 22 miles, mellow mountain or road bikes (added Tuesday, 5/22/12)
- Alpine Loop—out and back (close to Salt Lake): 53 miles, high intensity, road bikes are best [links to external site] (added Tuesday, 4/3/12)