by Seth Strickland
"It'll be easy - like riding a bike." How many times in the course of an average month do you hear that phrase? It's not without reason - by the best estimates, nearly 27 million Americans ride a bicycle at least infrequently, but it's nearly certain that many more have learned. It's one of the trials of childhood - your pedaling guru holds you upright on two suddenly too-skinny pieces of rubber, and lies, "You'll be fine." A few dozen skinned knees and elbows later, you usually are. The phrase 'like riding a bike' itself, though, is a colloquial and positive version of 'old habits die hard', and it's positive for a reason.
There's the obvious positive that bike riding at any age gets you off the couch, but less obvious, perhaps, is the fact that twenty miles a week reduces risk of heart disease by half. Again: by half . While you're fighting heart attacks harder than whole wheat, you're also improving coordination, reducing stress, burning fat, and making your brain steadily more pleased with itself.
'Okay, okay we get it!' cry out the fact-bludgeoned readers, 'we'll think vaguely about riding a bicycle!' Thinking about it can't cut it forever. Researching for this post has made me realize that most cycling articles have two main effects: they make the reader feel either slightly guilty or morally superior. So far, the bicyclists are feeling pretty good about themselves (see this cartoon chart to understand), and we, the spokeless masses, feel a little grumpy. But what do we do? How do we become one of the enlightened, a... cyclist ?
Here's the skinny: to be a cyclist, you only have to ride a bike. Amazing! Some gears, a chain, a handlebar, and a few brakes, and you will be welcomed into the elite echelon of bicyclists. And so, for the rest of this month, I challenge you to get out and ride one mile every day. That's all. By my count, that's something like six or seven miles. No sweat. Why? The first slow fingers of autumn are reaching out with crisp air, the kids are off at school, and the days are getting ever so slightly shorter. It's the perfect time for a bike ride.