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Bike riding involves serious calculation

I'm old so my first bike had fat tires and fenders and handlebars that were upright and only one speed, plus a chain guard. We used to put cards in the spokes to make a motor sound and red, white and blue crepe paper all over the bike for the 4th of July parades. The evolution of the English racing bike had skinny high-pressure tires and three speeds, but it still had fenders and semi-upright handlebars.

Now you have mountain bikes and 21-speed racers with little bitty stub handlebars that make you lean over and put pressure on your shoulders and arms, plus no fenders so you get a black streak on your back when you ride in wet weather and no chain guard so you get grease all over your leg. The serious bikers wear spandex and aerodynamic helmets and they lean way over to avoid wind drag. The seats are so skinny and uncomfortable that you sit on them with consternation, anticipation and trepidation. Somehow I don't think my top end speed of 8 to 10 mph necessitates all these accommodations.

I recently bought my not quite as old wife a bike with fat tires, big seat, long horned steer-type handlebars with seven speeds and fenders, plus a chain guard. It represents all that was good in bikes ,plus some new developments.

There were a couple of early tipovers when she lost gyroscopic stability at stops, but nothing serious. I encouraged her to ride and joined her as her range increased from the neighborhood to the bike paths. Here we encountered some difficulty. The paths are great and smooth and scenic, but the problem comes with the necessity to share the routes with others.

The first problem we encountered was the joggers with the ear buds oblivious to their surroundings. A single bell ring will not alert them to the fact that you are passing and numerous bell rings seems rude, besides they still may not hear you. Consequently, you either leave the path or brush by them hoping you won't startle them too badly; best bet, hit the dirt.

The women talkers and walkers that stroll side by side and engage in serious conversation will usually respond to the ding-a-ling and take up a single-file march, but periodically you are required to hit the dirt as they press on with their gossip totally zoned in conversation.

The dog walkers present a serious consternation if the dog is large and the leash is stretched across the path. You can easily envision yourself taking the leash in your front tire and being launched forward over the bars. If the dog is small you might be able to run over the leash but this might suck the little dog into your wheel and everyone would wind up in a large fur ball. Usually the owner will short-leash the dog and pull off to the side to let you pass, otherwise you hit the dirt again.

The lovers and hand holders are generally congenial, but when they go single file they can't hold hands; hence, you have impacted them adversely; again, just hit the dirt.

Other bikers whooshing by you are humbling and distracting, but the ones coming at you can be scary, especially if their balance might be as shaky as your own. Wisest choice: yield, leave the path and ride the dirt.

In all it's a great exercise and always exciting and heart-racing playing chicken with the oncoming traffic, but your best bet is to always hit the dirt.