It’s dumping rain—with snow predicted later this weekend—and I’ve been thinking about cycling and how I got started. I apologize ahead of time for the less than upbeat post.
First, I grew up with bicycles. My first bike didn’t have training wheels. My dad taught me to ride in the parking lot of our apartment building over the course of the weekend. I was so banged up the second day, from all of the falling down that happened the first day that I my dad had to literally pry me away from the railing so he could finish teaching me. I was perfectly happy to stay a non-cyclist forever.
Instead, I ended up learning to ride, and I’ve ridden ever since. I’ve now been riding for more than 30 years. Riding was freedom to me. We used to go all over the neighborhood, leaving the house whenever we could. We’d ride in the woods and on the street; we’d make jumps—you know, the plank of wood and a cinder block—and we’d ghost ride our bikes, too. And, for the most part, it was a family affair. My family has three boys, one of them you know—Jon, the other poster on Lactic Acid Threshold, is my younger, taller brother—and we would ride all over the place. Usually, though, I was chasing after Mike, my older brother.
In fact, my first real crash happened very early on—if I remember correctly, I must have been 7 or 8 years old—and Mike was the one who got me home. I smacked my head pretty good and was unconscious. There were no helmets back then and I was moving pretty good, nearly 40mph I’m sure, really, on a 16” wheeled bike. Yeah, at least 40… and hit some gravel. Down I went. I woke up at home. Man, that was a weird feeling.
I continued to chase Mike as we grew up. He was fast. I got into mountain bikes around 1986—that first mountain bike was a Schwinn Mesa—and he stayed in the road bike world. Naturally, this made it hard for me to keep up on the road, but I justified it by telling him that I was having more fun. Now I do both.
Mike no longer rides. He had to hang up his wheels for good around 1995, or so, after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
MS is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. It inhibits the communication that happens between the neurons of the brain. Because of this, Mike can no longer ride a bicycle. In fact, he has trouble walking and standing now, and mostly is wheelchair bound.
This week is MS Awareness week. Bike MS is a charity event that happens all over the United States. Chances are, there is going to be one in your neighborhood some time this year. I’d like to challenge you to pick an event and ride it. Like cancer, there is no cure for MS, but strides are being made to improve the lives of those who have it, and to lessen its impact in their lives.
Next time you ride, think about how you got started. I know I will, and I’ll be thinking about Mike.