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  1. Health

Let a seasoned cyclist reintroduce you to thrill of the ride

Published Sep. 18, 2014

Editor's note: Tired of the gym? Burned out on running? Wishing fitness could be more fun? Maybe it's time to pull that old bike out of the garage. This is the first in a series of columns intended to help get you rolling.

People come to bicycling in many ways and for many reasons. And since this column will be mostly about the bike, it makes sense to tell you how I came to it.

It wasn't by choice. After my first marriage ended, she got the car and left me with enough money to buy a bike. In 1976, $165 made me the owner of a new Fuji Dynamic 10. It took me anywhere I needed to go.

The rolling hills of Piedmont North Carolina are gorgeous, and eventually I found myself riding when I didn't need to. Still, running was my passion until I moved a few years later to Dallas, where flat land and a warm climate made me a runner in the winter and a cyclist in the summer.

A new marriage and three kids later, I moved to the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where my bike and I seemed the underdog against the worst traffic in the nation. So I ran until I had to have both knees scoped. My recovery therapy was the bike, made stationary on an indoor trainer. I rediscovered cycling. I had to make it work for me.

Fortunate to have my office in my house, I rode in the early afternoon when traffic was light, though so were the prospects for riding partners. But that was okay. My few experiences with group rides led me to think most required lots of testosterone. You had to prove yourself by both staying with the group and being cool. Usually unable to do either, I chose the solo ride, where no one could prove I wasn't fast and cool.

Over those 25 years in Virginia of working and raising a family, my experience was similar to that of many others. I rode when I could and ate when I couldn't. I'd ride regularly and lose 5 pounds. I'd stop and gain 8. Lose 4, gain 7. Three years ago, I was 227.

I decided to ride four times a week. I lost, at best, a pound a week at first and then at a much slower pace.

Last year, we moved to Florida. What better way to meet people, I thought, than to join the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club. Once I'd made a few friends, I figured, I'd return to my solo riding.

A funny thing happened on the group rides. Folks were welcoming, helpful and most of all, inspiring.

Some of the rides are still tough for me to keep up on, but in 16 months I've been whipped into the best shape of my life and touched below 175 pounds. I couldn't have done it without the guys and gals in the pack. Many of them are not only faster than I but older (I'm 66).

I'm not sure why cycling appeals to me. Being able to say I rode 40 miles today or that I hammered to exhaustion seems its own reward. In some way, I'm taking care of myself.

Most of us can remember the wind in our faces riding bikes as kids. The wind is still there. This column will be about helping those who want to reclaim it.

We'll talk about how to buy a bike, where to find rides, how to prepare for them and most important, how to be safe. I welcome your thoughts.

So what if we can't be what we used to be? Maybe we can be even better.

Bob Griendling, who lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Karla Leavelle, says he rides more than he should but less than he'd like to. He is a retired media relations consultant and writer. He blogs at bobgriendling.com

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