12th annual Tour de Belleville was Friday, July 14, 2017
Pedal hard. Faster, faster! Then coast awhile longer.
Wave at cars passing by, and avoid pesky squirrels, rabbits or rocks in the street.
Enjoy peace and quiet, and be alone in my thoughts for a few blocks.
Riding a bike is one of the few things I can do as well today as I did as a kid.
I wish I could ride my bike more often but there’s never enough free time. I stick to bike trails or the streets of my neighborhood because it’s safe. As long as there aren’t many hills and the headwind is tame, I enjoy riding my bike because it’s good exercise and it makes me feel good.
It doesn’t hurt my back, knees or feet. It’s fun.
I’m not alone. I see more adults on bikes than kids. Bike trails are filled with adults. Whoever thought more moms and dads – and grandparents – would be riding bikes today as much or more than their kids?
My parents never rode a bike, or even considered it. I’m not sure Mom or Dad had time to ride a bike. They were too busy working so their kids like me could ride bikes all day. It would have been weird to see them in padded shorts and neon shirt on a Schwinn.
I like riding my bike because I can ride with my wife, friends or alone. Put the cellphone in the seat’s little backpack. Get away from it all for a while.
My Giant road bike is quite a bit nicer than the bikes from Sears-Roebuck or Grandpa’s Discount Store that I rode as a kid. The best bike I ever had was a cool, blue Raleigh Chopper with an extra-padded seat.
What I remember most about that old Chopper was my failed attempt to ride it down Suicide Hill while in grade school. I lost control about midway down and ended up in a ditch. My hand was in a bandage for Halloween night. The other favorite Chopper memory is the day it was stolen from me at the old Burger Chef on State Street in East St. Louis. I knew the big kid’s name who stole it. Somehow, my dad got the bike back for me that night unscratched. Dad had a few police friends, he said. He reached super hero status, to me, that night.
I outgrew that Chopper and upgraded to a yellow Schwinn 10-speed in about seventh grade. That bike allowed me to go places and see people before I could drive a car. Every kid had a bike. That was an era before parents transported kids everywhere. We rode our bikes. Or we walked. Or we stayed home.
Biking is a lot more formal nowadays; that’s because adults are more involved.
There are special biking clothes. I have a few pairs of those tight, black biking pants with the padded butts. They make a difference. I usually wear gym shorts over them, though. No reason to creep anyone out.
Today, there are special biking helmets, gloves, shoes, socks, identification tags, water bottles, socks. Once upon a day, we just got up and took off.
For the record, I did not ride in the annual Naked Bike Ride in St. Louis last weekend. Come on. I don’t even take my shirt off at the pool.
Didn’t make Belleville’s Tour de Belleville, last weekend, which is a nice family event. It was my birthday. I had a steak to eat.
I’m not a long-distance, marathon bike rider. I like the 10- to 20-mile treks. I’m not going to win any races, either. I like to coast. Enjoy the quiet. Keep my mouth closed, though. Bad way to catch bugs.
I’ve ridden in a few organized rides, for fun or charity. Always fun. Bike riders are a friendly group.
I love music but I don’t wear headphones when riding my bike. I want to hear cars honking, trains tooting, or dogs barking. What I like most is listening to nothing — the silence of a bike ride on a quiet country road.
I have a bike rack for the back of my Honda Accord that allows me to pack my bikes and drive to the bike trails in Madison County, or Forest Park, or along the Great River Road in Alton.
I’ll never win a bike race or endurance test, but that’s not my goal. I’ll just keep pedaling, coasting, daydreaming, just as I did while riding my bike many, many decades ago.