Midlife Cricycle


Bike commuter in the city.Spring has definitely arrived. I am in the mood that comes along with the smell of lilacs and rain. I grill out even though it’s still getting dark a bit early, I wear flip-flops even though it’s still too chilly, and I want to be outside, all the time. Along with that comes the inevitable vow to be more active, to get the exercise I feel I should, to get in better shape. Turns out I’m not getting any younger.

I read an article a few months ago announcing a recent medical study’s results concluding that exercise is healthy and advisable for people with Crohn’s disease. While that seems like wise advice, I found it a little bit odd since I’d never seen any memo about exercise being bad for IBD patients. I thought it was good for everybody. Regardless, I take it as a reminder that life can be pretty complicated for us in ways that make exercise difficult—sometimes in terms of capability, but nearly always in terms of logistics. Well, this spring I’ve been feeling pretty good and wanted to try something new to help me enjoy exercising outdoors and hopefully do more of it.

The bee in my bonnet this year takes the shape of a new bicycle. The one I ride now I bought in 1994 and I’m starting to realize it’s pretty old. In fact, I recently realized that it’s now older than my dad’s Schwinn Varsity was when I made fun of him for still having it back when I was in high school. My recent bug started last weekend at a bike-swap hosted by a local store. They had this interesting new sort of bicycle. It had a smallish frame and large wheels. It wasn’t really a mountain or road bike; it was somewhere in between and had a multi-speed rear hub. The gears were all hidden inside with one single shifter control. I rode it and loved the simple shifting action. I think it was meant to be a sort of grown man’s BMX bike. It was lighter than any bike I’ve ridden. Plus it was on super-sale (last year’s model). So I bought it, along with a lovely nostalgic ding-dong bell to go with it.

I got home and rode it around the neighborhood. I raced around like I had when I was a much younger man. I loved the new feel of it, and the sense of freedom it brought. And then it hit me. I’m in my forties, on an exercise kick, hoping to revive the agility of my youth. I got tired of my old bike and traded it in for a modern version of the one I’d have loved to ride when I was young…. Was this bike the classic symbol of a mid-life crisis?

All the pieces seemed to fit. It wasn’t a sports car, but it started to feel like the same thing… smaller and zippier and shinier than its predecessor. Plus it was sort of like a convertible—I’d definitely feel the wind in my hair. Only this one wasn’t red. Rather it was silver, the color of my evolving hair and beard. And I probably wouldn’t ride this one off any jumps or cliffs as I would have in my earlier days, I’ll probably end up doing something boring like commuting to work on it. However, the more conspicuously absent component of a mid-life crisis was the young bimbo that’s supposed to come with such a new purchase. But that’s ok. My bike has only one seat. And anyway, if it were a two-seater, there’s only one person I’d ride it with. Actually at that same bike swap, my wife and I test drove a tandem bike and we had a hoot. It was difficult to control, making tough work of navigating our path. It started out feeling unfamiliar but we adapted to the teamwork. It’s a bit more complicated with two of us than it would have been alone. But then again, so is marriage. And they’re both still fun.

So, even without changing everything, I’m made a happier man in mid-life; hopefully a healthier one too. And I’m thrilled with my midlife cricycle. 

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Tags: Narratives

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About the Author

Andrew Tubesing is an acclaimed advocate and humorist on the subject of inflammatory bowel disease.