BOB EASTLEY: As easy as riding a bike

WBob-Eastleye’ve all heard the expression that something is “as easy as falling off a log”, or perhaps “as easy as pie.” That must refer to eating the pie and not making the pie, because the whole crust thing has me befuddled (I like that word.) 

Then there’s the ever-popular “as easy as riding a bike.” That was true when I was a kid. My bike was a big, clunky extension of my little, clunky self. It had a heavy-duty frame and wide tires and one just one speed. It also had uncomplicated brakes that were activated by stomping on the pedals. We could speed down hills and through people’s back yards and hop curbs and do wheelies and almost never got so much as a scrape. Ah, those were the good old days.

Since then, some demented, upscale, skinny little fitness buffs decided to create a by-gosh dreamcycle for people with too much time and lots of discretionary money on their hands. And so, I give you today’s racing bike. It weighs less than a large T-bone steak, has a carbon-fiber frame, tires that are mere millimeters wide, disc brakes, 27 speeds, cables sprouting from every orifice, high-tech toe clips and a price tag rivaling that of a Lexus.

Let me see if I can explain the basic operation of this wonder of modern science. Pay attention, because the Space Shuttle is less complicated. Are you a multitasker? If not, you might skip the rest of this narrative and take up bowling. To begin with, examine your pedals. If they appear to have been replaced by something resembling the blade of a 3-iron, then you have toe clips. You need to rush out and buy a pair of specialized bike shoes with hardware to match the clips. Get a helmet while you’re at it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Are you back? Marvelous. Now, start the bike forward, hop on, and clip both feet into place. You are now committed. You also better start pedaling. On each side of the handlebars you’ll see an intricate system of levers. On the right side is the back brake, and on the left side is the front. If you achieve 20 mph while going downhill and then slam on that front brake, you’ll experience the joy of spontaneous cartwheels. This will entertain innocent bystanders.

Also on the handlebars, integrally connected to the brakes, are two more levers on each side for shifting the front and back sprockets up and down. If you wish to go from the large to the small chain ring in the front, you should simultaneously shift the matching lever controlling the back cluster. This will allow a smooth transition through the gears. Got it? Are you sure?

To summarize, you clip in, begin pedaling, build up speed, suddenly realize that you are approaching a busy intersection, downshift the rear gear cluster while simultaneously applying gentle pressure to the rear brake, come to a complete stop (now, here’s where the real fun begins), and only then realize that your feet are still attached to the pedals. Rats. Then, while desperately trying to unclip, totally unaware that you are making panicky little squeeky noises normally associated with a seven year-old girl, you’ll do a perfect Arte Johnson and tip over on your non-dominant side. Once again, this will entertain any nearby spectators.

Then for the next fifteen minutes, lying on your side with your feet locked to the pedals, the frame pinning you to the ground, blood oozing from your left cheek, you will resemble a shackled Harry Houdini trying to extricate himself from some diabolical trap.

So, if you haven’t broken your left wrist, and if your ego is still intact, you can get back on the proverbial bike and give it another whirl. Perhaps I’ll see you up on the Rail Trail. If not, I’ll look for your car in the bowling alley parking lot.

Contact Bob Eastley at eastleyr@ferris.edu.

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