A recent group message with elementary school friends reminded me of when my 3rd grade class made our own version of the Guinness Book of World records. Smartest Boy: Anthony Perone. Smartest Girl: Chrissy McAteer, obviously. Nicky Puja was inarguably the Tallest and while it wasn’t a category, I could have been voted Boy Most Likely to Remember Useless Anecdotes.
John Del Vecchio was deemed the Best Bike Rider although there was some debate because Tim Hurley was also pretty skilled on his Mongoose. But Hurley already had Best Looking Boy wrapped up so another accolade would have been annoying. I’m more of a point A to point B kind of two-wheeler myself. But with no gym to go to during the pandemic, I’ve had to leave my cardio comfort zone. Ride a bike, they all say. You should ride a bike! I know “they” are probably right but I’ve always been reluctant for some reason. Confidence is a fickle thing.
Kristen and I did buy used cruisers at Play it Again Sports last year with the idea that we would treat them like beach bikes. We could ride them to the square for lunch or for a leisurely roll on the Beltline. Yeah, we never did those things. And now I was tasking this jalopy with keeping me in shape. My friend Mike offered a gentle assessment: “That’s the most Grandpa lookin’ bike I’ve ever…” his voice trailing off in pity.
The first few rides were humbling. Serious cyclists passed me in a flourish of spandex and honestly, this is another one of the factors that has always kept me from the sport. The size choices on these outfits seem to be Small and Even Smaller. I’m already embarrassing myself enough out here so if my regular t-shirt flapping in the wind renders me less aerodynamic, so be it.
Riding the Path to Stone Mountain seemed like a biker-guy thing to do so I headed in that direction. Several miles along, my handlebars came loose, as they are wont to do. I tightened them up in an area that apparently was close to a designated street crossing. A couple in a car waved me across like I was a pathetic turtle. I motioned for them to go ahead and they gave me the international symbol of “what the hell is wrong with you?” I pleaded—Sorry! I’m just not very good at this! Grandpa bike!
Margo caught the cycling bug, too, but had outgrown her old ride. After hitting several shops, I realized that we weren’t the only new enthusiasts in town. Next to toilet paper the hardest thing to secure during the pandemic has been a 24-inch girl’s bike. We found a Trek for sale online but it required driving almost an hour away to some random guy’s house with a fistful of cash. Seemed a little sketchy but after quarantining for so long that drive to McDonough left Kristen and me feeling like Thelma and Louise.
Now Margo has a (properly social distanced) bike gang and they are a force to be reckoned with around Oakhurst Village. A vaccine would be awesome but weighing on me more than anything is how difficult this must be for the kids. The fresh air and social benefits are like gold. Between that and my efforts to stave off actual weight gain, it seems a good old-fashioned bicycle was what Margo and I both needed.
As luck would have it, I have friends with perfectly rideable bikes that they don’t want anymore. Benzie gave me his old Gary Fisher a while ago so I dusted that off and Ray gave me a Diamondback hybrid. Now that I’ve graduated from the Grandpa bike I’m sort of getting into this. Del Vecchio’s Best Bike Rider title is safe for now, but if I start shopping for form-fitting kits, he’d better look out.
Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.