By Calvin Deyermond
Upon retiring in the suburbs, my wife and I were looking to downsize and make life simpler and unique. After much deliberation, we moved to the Elmwood Village. We were attracted by the quality of life through the varied cultural, recreational and culinary options. She quickly adapted to her newfound lifestyle of yoga, brisk walks on chestnut-lined streets, sidewalk shopping and neighborhood markets. I must admit I became a little more restless and lethargic as driving became a chore and parking an obstacle.
It wasn’t until a bicyclist friend asked if I was enjoying the many options for city cycling that triggered wistful thoughts of my childhood when I was carefree and explored my city and countryside without hesitation by bike. Maybe this would solve some of my ennui and restore my enthusiasm for something different.
After researching my options, I decided to invest in a bicycle and give it a try. Not only did it fulfill my needs, but researchers have concluded biking burns calories faster than walking, reduces stress, is safer than running and you can enjoy the benefits your entire life. As a septuagenerian, I am enjoying a rebirth of my youth.
My classic Schwinn has become my second car; an affordable alternative in a city that is becoming a serious bike-friendly place to live. I ride to my volunteer job, to church, the library, concerts, festivals and City Hall. When riding to the grocery store I buy only those few items I can stuff in my backpack.
The last mass bicycle craze in the United States took place in Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright brothers family. Through their mechanical genius and business acumen, they developed the modern bicycle with two equal-size wheels, gears and a self-lubricating hub for endless miles of touring. That business bankrolled their interest in flight and the rest is history. Travel to the great cities of the world today and you will see bike-only streets and kilometers of paths to ride from one to another. Paris, Amsterdam, Mexico City, Portland and even New York are a few of the many success stories.
I’m not saying that biking is without risks and drawbacks. Too often, I am reminded of the skinned knees and crash landings into bushes in my childhood. So I have learned to be more cautious, wear a helmet, use running lights and ignore the road rage from impatient drivers. Caution becomes the better part of valor and our city provides ample safety and self-help classes for beginners. GOBike, Reddy Bike and Slow Roll can assist with your excursions and help with broken gears and flat tires, offering tools and a workshop to do your own repairs.
As a society, we have become more lethargic and forgotten how much we once depended on bicycles, but a walk down memory lane reminds me of the many pleasures I got from them, sometimes with my best friends on the handlebars or our kids in the bike seat.
If your destination is a stretch try car-racking your bike and parking closer. You may also want to pack a picnic lunch, but remember, you have to ride back!
I realize biking isn’t for the faint of heart, but the benefits outweigh the concerns. So visit your nearest bike shop or rent a bike and try it out. Soon you will fantasize about long excursions along the canal bike paths. As always, wear a helmet. Bike injuries are reduced 75 percent when wearing one. Hop on the latest craze!