Finding a gear that works well

I was standing in my front yard last week when an unusual low noise caught my attention. It was a kind of humming, grunting noise that I couldn’t identify. I stood there with my head cocked, trying to figure it out when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a large group of bikers whizzing along. I probably should say “bicycle riders” since the term “bikers” could have involved a bunch of motorcycles. These are entirely different kinds of “bikers” and shouldn’t be confused.

They flashed by in classic form, heads down, tails up, brightly colored Lycra butts rocking back and forth as they headed up the hill in front of the house. I hadn’t heard of a race being held in our area so I figured either they were really lost from the Tour De France or they were a club out for a friendly little jaunt in the countryside. In a couple of minutes they had passed from view, leaving me alone with my thoughts. It did look like good exercise, it didn’t look like fun.

They were all riding what we used to call “English Racers.” They weren’t the kind of bike I learned to ride on. We had proper bikes, with balloon tires that you sat right up straight on. Mine was a J.C. Higgins. Bikes used to come in sexes, mine was male, you could tell by the large tank that extended from the seat to the handlebars. The female bikes had a dip where the tanks were on the male bikes. I don’t know who designed these in the first place but I think they made a mistake in which was which. Slamming on the brakes and landing on the tank a few times did seem to hinder the idea of ever reproducing.

Bikes were impressively large and came in only one speed which varied according to the amount of effort you were willing to expend, normal speed was just sitting and pumping along, over drive was available and could be recognized by the rider’s position. To go fast, you stood up. My bike had a coaster brake which was more than adequate for stopping, emergency braking consisted of dragging the rubber toe of your Ked high tops. The only clothing alterations from our normal garb was the tucking of your pants leg into your sock if you had stripped your bike down and no longer had a chain guard.

I have a nice mountain bike, maybe I’ll start riding it, I could use the exercise. It’s got nice big tires and you ride it sitting up straight, I like that. The only thing standing between me and whizzing down the road is the fact that it’s got a hundred or so different gears to shift into. I’ve been on it a few times and tried to move the shift levers around like I knew what I was doing but inevitably found myself on a nice flat level piece of highway pedaling furiously like a hamster in a wheel or trying to go up a mile long hill in just three pumps. I haven’t figured out how the gears work, maybe if I slip the 10 year old neighbor’s kid a couple of bucks, he’ll show me or I could fool around until I found a gear that seemed to work well for most occasions and just leave it there and pretend that I have my old J.C. Higgins back.

I do know that I’m not going to get one of those brightly colored stretchy suits, a helmet that looks like Stuart Little’s walnut shell and hop on a six pound bike with tires you could cut yourself on and ride off into the sunset, after all what would the neighbor’s think?

Thought for the week — The world is full of willing people; some willing to work, the rest willing to let them. — Robert Frost

Until next week, may you and yours be happy and well.

Reach Dick Brooks at Whittle12124@yahoo.com.

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