I did it! I bought a bicycle! I have been contemplating this for a long time. The last time I bought a bike was over 20 years ago. My husband and I lived in L.A. and we bought these big, rugged mountain bikes. And I despised mine from the start. It never felt right, I couldn’t get comfortable on it, and this was when I was young and much more fit than now (although we are gonna have to grade my fitness on a curve here because I was never really what you might call fit). Numerous attempts at adjusting everything from the seat to the handle bars to my attitude yielded the same result. I hated my bike. It is possible that the problem was me, not the bike.
I started dreaming of a new bike a few months ago, when I started losing weight. I have been thinking a lot about freedom, and how being overweight has limited my freedom. Or more aptly I have limited myself because of my size. Or my self-limiting thoughts contributed to being overweight. Yeah, all of that. But I am changing my attitude in my fifties. I care less about what people think, and realize the only thing limiting me is me. I mean, aging is a trade off. When you are young you get perky boobs and a tight butt. When you get older you get wisdom and moxie. You may not like the trade off but that seems to be the deal so why not embrace it? I know I look ridiculous on a bike, but I decided I don’t care. I was going to make middle age work in my favor; I am going for the freedom I crave, even more than I crave food. Even though I feel awkward I really want to do this.
So buying a bike started to feel like more that buying a bike, so of course then it took me even longer because now it was a thing. I made a deal with some very supportive friends that I would just go look at a bike. Touch a bike. Nothing more. I went to Walmart and touched a bike. I felt so intimidated – at Walmart!
The next day I went to a local bike shop, and bravely asked a sales guys a bunch of questions. He was not exactly rude, but he had his arms crossed the entire time and didn’t volunteer anything unless I asked. My last question to him was: how do I know if a particular bike will be a good fit? Well, he said, you can stand over it here in the store. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I felt frustrated and vaguely humiliated and defeated. Very entrenched feelings for me when it comes to anything that involves fitness.
But I still really wanted a bike.
If you know me you know that I don’t generally believe in signs, but in the next few days two things happened that my friend Alyse would call “cosmic winks.” The first was this: an older man, built quite like me, very suddenly started riding his bike in our neighborhood. Slowly. And every day. I had never seen him before.
At the same time I was still looking around online for weight loss resources for the over 50 set, and I came across the lovely Shelley at Myjourneytofit.com and she had pictures of herself with her beautiful Electra Cruiser bike! Pictures of herself not just now that she has lost 100 pounds and kept if off for years — woo hoo! — but pictures from when she began her journey. I sent her an email and she generously responded with lots of helpful feedback.
I started reading online bike reviews and discovered that my local REI had Electras in stock. The next evening I screwed up my courage and again braved a bike store. I could have left my courage at home: Bill, my sales guy, was a mensch. He just exuded the attitude that of course you can ride a bicycle. He patiently answered all of my questions, and as I was trying to figure out if the bike would be a good fit for me he said “Well, there is only one way to find out: go out in the parking lot and take ‘er for a spin.”
And so I did, and the bike was perfect for me. A seven speed cruiser; a big, bright orange beauty. Way more flamboyant that I had planned. I had my eye on the more modest cream colored model. I asked Bill about it and he said, “Oh, yes, the vanilla bike.” Vanilla? I decided I really could be bolder than that, and pledged my love to what I have named my new Orange Crush. And I am crushing big time. Seven gears are great: they get the job done on the smallish hills around my house. The handle bars are up high, so I don’t need to be hunched over and uncomfortable. The saddle is big and cushy and the tires are fat enough to keep me stable as I cruise very slowly around my little community. It turns out I live in a great area to bike, but I didn’t realize it until I had the courage to get out there. I ride past my neighbor on his bike now and am so tempted to ask him if he wants to race. He seems to be getting stronger and faster, and what I really want to tell him is thank you and I am proud of you, which might startle him right off of his ride, so I probably won’t. Though someday I just might.