“Who is this fat guy on a bike?”
If anyone’s wondering who this overweight (ok, fat) old guy rides his bike to and from school, with his grandson riding a bike in the lead, it’s probably me. At least I haven’t seen anyone else on a bike riding a grandson to school and back each day.
And, the trip was a bit of an adventure.
First and foremost there is the problem of time and traffic. Living near schools on Pioneer Lane, driving a car is a challenge. Even getting out of my driveway in the morning and afternoon is a challenge. And then cars and trucks are often parked on the street and queuing to drop off and pick up their children.
We could walk to middle school – and we started walking – and save even more time than driving and waiting in line, but I found walking twice as far as my grandson from 8 years old every day was uncomfortable at best and painful the other days due to nerve damage in my feet. I suggested we ride a bike, and my grandson was all for it. I wasn’t so sure, but I thought we’d give it a try.
I got out my old beach cruiser (a single speed), aired the tires and off we went. No, I couldn’t keep up with my cycling grandson at first, but we managed. After a reminder from the school principal that we should both wear bike helmets, I made sure my grandson always wore his every day and ordered one for a guy with a big head. Even though I cycled miles and miles on my bike in my youth, this was the first bike helmet I ever owned. Of course, in my youth, we didn’t have seat belts in our cars, and kids would ride upright in the front seat or sleep in the back window.
It only took a trip or two to find out that whoever assembled the bike I rode, which I bought at the big box store down south many years ago, was not what I would call an expert. The chain was loose, the handlebars weren’t tight, and some screws were missing. To avoid catastrophic failure and injury to body and ego, I adjusted the chain and tightened the handlebars and other nuts and bolts that held onto insignificant parts like the wheels.
And yet, after a month of riding, I finally took the fenders off when I found that the occasional rattling and scraping was caused by a bracket not being properly attached to the frame and some loose screws metals were missing. Finally, it cruises more like a beach cruiser should.
After a few weeks of riding I ordered a multi-speed mountain bike from a very reputable bike manufacturing company – at least the bikes made 50 years ago were good quality 10 speeds. This one had 21 speeds. I don’t know why I would need 21 gears—the maximum I’ve ever had in a big truck traversing the Rocky Mountains was 15—but 21 seemed to be what was on offer.
Well, this 21 speed was not made in the USA but in China, and the quality was surely not what I expected. It came from the factory partially assembled, but it took a whole list of key types and sizes to complete the job. The rear wheel was already mounted on the frame, and the tube had been pinched between the tire and the rim and partially inflated. I fixed the problem and thought the thin tube might still be OK, but an eruption about 100 yards from my house proved otherwise. He now has a good heavy duty inner tube in this tire and I have another to replace the inner tube before one of these days.
Riding the 21-speed didn’t feel very comfortable, and somehow it still takes the same amount of power to get from point A to point B. Regardless, I seems to prefer high speed to single speed for our school trips. It certainly works better for carrying my grandson’s backpack on the handlebars than the 21-speed.
We’ll see what happens. I can get used to the cool bike with all the extra features. Otherwise, my grandson has already claimed it as soon as he is old enough to ride it. He thinks it will be in a few months, but I guess it might be in a few years.
In addition to saving daily time, there are other benefits for an elderly, overweight grandfather. it gives me some time
from the computer every day, which is good. It also gives me some exercise – something I didn’t do before and really needed. It may help me shed a few pounds, and it might even make 21-speed riding more comfortable. But, above all, it is an adventure that I share with a grandson and hopefully something he will always remember.
What will happen when it gets cooler and colder? I don’t know for sure. I prefer cold to warm and hope we can keep riding, but my grandson said he was cold on the cool morning we had last week. Maybe with the right gloves and the right jacket…
Randy Moll is the editor of the Westside Eagle Observer. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.