Ill-Advised Bicycle Ride

"I'm going to go ride my bike," I said, and by "bike" I did not mean motorcycle. For once.

(There was a time when I was becoming an avid cyclist, always off gallivanting around under the motivation of two pedals alone, cranking my away along streets and byways with such regularity that I even bought a little mirror that velcro-ed to the handgrip, affording me a view of the approaching traffic that would soon be spraying me with road grime. At some point I stopped, though, and the mirror - and the bike - didn't see much use for nearly a year.)

Whistling up the street at first, several realizations blew over me. First, the bike seemed very light, and wobbly, compared to the 350-lb. KLR650 I usually ride. Also slower.

The seat hurt, too - I thought the KLR had a small seat until I recalled the paltry padding sensation of two butt bones nestled into half an inch of foam rubber.

The wind blows fairly loudly, you know, without a helmet - reminding me that the whorls and curvatures of my naked pink ears were designed to locate predators, not hustle through the atmosphere at 25 mph.

And there are odors. Driving by in a car and noticing someone laying down fresh mulch isn't half the visceral experience you get upon suddenly sucking in a whiff of that long-forgotten, acrid scent.

I rode past mailboxes I'd never noticed, with clever devices I'd never noticed to alert the owner when the mailman had come - small weights tied to strings that dangled in the breeze once the door had been opened. I thought about the ingenuity involved and the countless trips saved as I rode by, going nowhere for no reason.

I noticed hills that got a lot steeper than they were the last time I drove up them, the crests somehow heaving skyward the moment I turned my back.

I noticed my own voice, the sound of panting as I struggled to keep my legs moving.

I noticed who was selling their cars, or vans, or lawnmowers, or all three, and whose lawn-care policies leaned toward meticulous tending, next door to people practicing defiant neglect.

There were puddles I never noticed, cropping up on bridges mainly, and my tires threw up flecks of mud onto my hat, shirt and shorts, striping me from stem to stern so that even when I'd gotten home, kicked the kickstand and removed the shirt, my wife still commented that it looked like I'd had an accident in my pants.

And then I noticed my legs burning, the muscles taut and achy, thighs brushing together as I strode toward the shower, a clammy, self-powered adventurer who looked like he'd crapped himself.

I'm going to try again tomorrow.

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