Here’s the deal: If one be post-40 (I could argue for post-30) and were last on a bicycle at 10, then one ought not be riding one in Key West — or anywhere else for that matter.
Key West brings out wobblers and weavers. Those “how-hard-could-it-be” folks who believe riding a bicycle is, well, as easy as riding a bicycle. Off the cruise ships and day trips they come, heading straight for the myriad rent-a-shops scattered throughout Old Town. What better way to see Key West and get some exercise, to boot?
So, it’s back on the bike. Ah, there’s the romance of it. A leisurely roll along the Atlantic, water sparkling and wind fluffing one’s hair. A swift and deftly executed turn from Truman onto Duval. A quick stop to adore the chickens.
Riding a bicycle post-40 has all the romance of sex on a moonlit beach, until, that is, one realizes sand and sex are a better imagination combo than in real life.
One doesn’t just hop on and ride off with the elegance of Lance Armstrong. (OK, that’s not the best reference, but you get the point.) It takes about 10 seconds to realize the balance and grace one had at 10 disappeared with the advent of a paunch, an expanding rear end and a couple decades of sitting in an office chair.
Old people — and I define old as that point at which Spandex is no longer appropriate — should not be riding two-wheel bicycles. We’re dangerous what with the weaving and wobbling, the death-grip on the handle bars and the brain fades over how to stop the darned thing.
You’d think I’d learned my lesson. Took me two years to learn to ride a bike when I was 6. Just ask my dad how many pairs of shoes he wore out running along side me, even with my training wheels. I was not, to put it simply, a natural.
But, here I am in Key West. Bicycle heaven. So I take my almost-like-new, white Giant up to Eaton Bikes for a tune-up. “Wow, this bike is in great shape for as old as it is,” says the bike fixer guy. “Garaged for 20 years,” say I, “and only ridden on weekends by a little old lady.”
I walk the bike all the way home, embarrassed to hop on where someone, anyone, might see me. I practice in the neighborhood day after day. And, decide I really hate riding this bicycle.
I want to ride a bicycle. I want to roll along the Atlantic. Stop to adore the chickens. Save $4.09 a gallon on gas on the way to work. I do not want to look like an old lady weaving and wobbling.
Bicycle manufacturers have noticed. Baby boomers, we who will never admit to being a day over 27, need three wheels, and thus has been born the adult trike. Safe, secure, stable, they are painted blue and silver and come with great big baskets.
I counted 10 of them on my way to work on a recent Monday. I paid close attention to their riders and nary a one looked old and decrepit — though a 20-something might beg to differ. Not one was weaving or wobbling, and they were getting on with getting where they wanted to go.
I think I’ll get a blue one like my very first two-wheeler. And I’m going to weave ribbons into the basket.
Linda Grist Cunningham is editor of KeyWestWatch.