Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

My college student was trying to define “...

My college student was trying to define “joy, fun, recreation, etc.”

“It’s the way I feel when I come back from an early morning bike ride on a hilly country road where I’ve never been before. That gets all five senses working in sync again.”

In New Zealand, the house parent of a youth hostel, put it this way: “When the world gets too much for me, I hop on that wheel of mine and ride eight or 10 miles. I come back refreshed and feelin’ as if I’ve done somethin’.”

A parent said, “The best invitation to vigorous, wholesome recreation is a clean, aired up, ready-to-go bicycle setting out where my child can see it.” That goes for adults as well.

Before I learned to use my ankles while pedaling, I earned a coveted badge for riding 25 miles in three hours. For this I chose level ground and made frequent short stops to snack and rest. It was a long haul but I covered the distance in just barely three hours. Then I bragged a lot about riding “25 in three.”

Bicycling, like playing a violin, is more rewarding when it’s done skillfully. Effective pedaling multiplies the number of miles the rider covers with a given amount of energy. However, I was past 50 when I discovered that there’s more to cycling than just pushing pedals.

When we rented three-speed bikes from a shop in London, they wouldn’t release them until they adjusted each saddle and put the handlebars just so, for our different sizes. That made cycling easier. I was still pedaling the way I learned when I got my first bike.

A white-haired gentleman who adjusted the rental bikes for us in Portsmouth, England, advised: “You’ll want to put the ball of your foot directly over the axle of the pedal. Think of the pedal crank as being the hand of a clock. When the hand is straight up -- 12 o’clock -- depress your heel and press the pedal forward and then down.” He told us, too, that we should begin to point our toes when the crank was at the 3 o’clock position. “Keep pressing continuously,” he said. “Beyond the 5 o’clock position, continue by ‘pawing’ the pedal even farther -- to 7 o’clock.” When we got the hang of it, the second foot was into its “ankling” motion before the first one completed the pawing.

Ankle action in pedaling multiplies the distance the bike moves with a given amount of effort. Humming a tune takes care of smooth, rhythmical pedaling. See! Feel! Smell! Touch! And Taste! You taste the salty raindrops that run down your hot face. And even a skunk smells good when you pedal along beside one on a bike, unnoticed.

You’ll feel like a kid again when you’re on a bike, but don’t try to ride the one your rode in fifth grade. It won’t fit you any better than the bluejeans you wore back then. With the SPARC system of cycling, you’ll learn to level off the terrain by riding in a lower gear and by spinning your feet around a little faster. The result? More mileage for less muscle. I proved it.

The bike club accompanied me on a hot July day -- my 64th birthday. I set an easy pace using a slightly lower gear and plenty of ankle action. Then I just pedaled along rhythmically, all day long. We were in Hallsville for breakfast, then over to Harrisburg through some beautiful hills and back to Columbia. That way we saw more scenery, heard more birds, felt more wind in our faces and smelled more skunks.

Why did I ride 64 miles on my 64th birthday? Completing that last mile, I had all my senses working in sync, and I felt that I’d done something!


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