October 2004, it was a Monday morning. Although I was obediently tucked into my cubicle and appeared to be working, it was just my body going through the motions. My mind was many miles away. I was shopping for my first bike in 15 years. I had gone to a local bike shop on Saturday and chatted with a salesman. He didn’t know me, but I knew him. We had been friends in high school back in the 70′s. He had no way to recognize me through the 350 pounds I was carrying. The last time he saw me, I was 170 pounds. He still weighs 160 pounds, commutes by bike every day, and has since 1978. He smiled politely when I told him my plan to lose weight and reward myself with a new bike once I reached my first goal of getting under 300 pounds.
My mind was racing with all the changes that had taken place since I last rode half seriously in the 1980′s. Indexed shifting? Disc brakes? Wow. My old 10 speed in the garage would never do. I tried to imagine the perfect bike for my urban trekking. I was thinking big – panniers, high powered lighting, fenders, the works. Trek, Giant, Jamis, Fuji, names I never knew. So many choices. As the morning wore on, I occasionally browsed some magazines and catalogues. I was pretty much worthless, I had the bike bug bad. I actually envisioned myself on the bike, spinning through the neighborhoods and city traffic at 20-25 miles per hour, never tiring. I could actually see myself pulling up at work, locking her up securely, and carrying my helmet and gear inside. I don’t know why it appealed to me so strongly to ride to work, but it did. Part of the appeal was the desire to lose weight, but there was more.
I wanted to be able to be self sufficient in the simple task of getting to work and back. I wanted to feel the road and the earth as I traveled over it by my own power. It’s akin to the same reasons people fly planes and gliders with no engine – it’s a natural high. I wanted to feel the rush of the wind, experience the openness, and smell the air with the wonderful aromas morning breakfasts and morning glories. I wanted to workout, wring out my muscles and chase away the fat. I could feel myself getting lean just sitting on my 8-way adjustable chair in my cubicle. This went on for weeks. Then it happened. I stepped on the scale, and buck naked, (and after I spit) I weighed 299.98 pounds. Close enough.
Next day I went back to the shop, and picked up my bike. It’s pretty much the most perfect commuter bike ever made. No pegs though. My friend Bruce smiled as I told him of my plan to lose weight and reward myself with a another bike when I reached 200 pounds.
(This is part one of a series – “Why I’m a Bicycle Commuter” Part two coming soon.)