Cycling has had a huge impact on my life during the past year. Most of all, I’ve discovered the benefits of traveling at “Bike Speed” – not too fast, not too slow, just right! When you are taking in the world on your bike, you have the ability to pause to talk to a friend, take a photo, and observe your surroundings. Everyone’s in such a rush these days – maybe we all need to view the world at a different pace.
When I “dusted off” my bike at the beginning of 2010, the first thing that I did was to crash! Not quite as dramatic as it sounds, but I underestimated my speed while approaching a narrow bridge and smacked into the guardrail. Didn’t help that the shoulder which made contact with the steel upright had been undergoing five months of rehab for a torn rotator cuff – Ouch! My bike didn’t fall over, but my garage door opener flew out of my basket and landed at the bottom of the creek. Then and there I decided that I needed to improve my bike handling skills.
I was very fortunate to locate the Cycling Savvy program, based close by in Orlando, FL. The program focuses on “traffic cycling,” helping riders to become comfortable, capable, and confident riding in any situation. The full course consists of three parts: “The Truth and Techniques of Traffic Cycling” – a three hour classroom session on traffic laws, crash prevention, bicycle driving principles, and unique traffic management strategies developed for this course; “Train Your Bike” – a three hour on-bike skill-building session held in a parking lot; and “Tour of Orlando” – a 3½ hour experiential, on-road learning experience. Cycling Savvy Founders, Keri Caffrey and Mighk Wilson, analyzed current bike training and found it lacking. Their program improves the skills of every one of its participants. This “in the saddle” training is designed with adult learners in mind and incorporates the best in social and experiential features through face-to-face and real-world instruction. It is quickly becoming the most respected form of bike training in the country.
So I picked up some skills – where did that lead me? I began having fun riding my bike. I took part in First Friday rides organized by Bike / Walk Central Florida and Commute Orlando. I participated in Holiday Light Rides, where the cyclists enjoy riding through neighborhoods to admire the houses, while the homeowners are appreciating the decorated and lighted bikes.
Next I started a “tradition” of renting bikes during business trips. Rather than wasting time sitting in my hotel room, I do some advance work to find bike friendly areas to ride, find a good bike shop and set out at “Bike Speed” to explore. So far I’ve ridden around Coronado (near San Diego), San Antonio, Atlanta, and Chicago. I’ve already written some articles about these “adventures”, but will be posting more on this blog soon.
I’ve met many new friends through cycling. It’s a social activity. During the First Friday Rides or Sweet Rides (which end at an ice cream or yogurt shop), the pace is leisurely enough to carry on a conversation. Those friends have encouraged me to ride even more and advised me on many aspects of cycling to improve my experience.
In one of my posts entitled “Sharing the Joy of Cycling“, I described getting together with friends from as far away as Scotland and California to enjoy riding together and discovering new places. I plan to add all of my previous articles to this new blog in order to consolidate them in one location.
I have recognized the importance that cycling can play in my overall health and fitness as well. Since taking the Cycling Savvy class in November, 2010, I have logged about 628 miles. Not necessarily huge by some standards, but fairly sizeable for a 59 year old, “pleasingly plump” gentleman. Who, by the way, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a year and a half ago. One of the most important things that I’ve learned about this illness is the direct correlation that research has proven concerning the benefits of exercise – particularly cycling – on helping PD patients to minimize their symptoms and live life fully.
In June of 2011, I rode just under 200 miles. Most of that was training to prepare for a ride in South Dakota to create awareness about Parkinson’s disease. My longest training ride leading up to it was 45 miles on the West Orange Trail. On June 25, 2011 I participated in the “Ride With Larry”, led by Larry Smith – a 20-year Parkinson’s patient riding a Catrike. Over five days, Larry, his wife Betty, and a core group of followers covered about 300 miles across South Dakota. Others were invited to take part on the final 65-mile leg. I was honored to have my son, Brian, riding along with me.
I plan to keep riding. I plan to keep writing. I plan to keep having fun and living life to the fullest. This blog is one outlet to share some of my adventures and journeys. I hope that you visit from time to time. If our paths cross – let’s go for a ride together at “Bike Speed”.