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I Want to Ride it Where I Like

Me standing with my 2015 Fairdale Coaster that I bought, used, from Re-Cycles on June 8, 2022
New Bike Day on June 8th, 2022

CONTENT WARNING: health, body image, food, exercise. Also, this is going to be ONE LONG POST.

A week before Christmas in 2021 I had a really bad doctor's visit.

I mean, worse than the rest in the preceding few years. When I finally listened to my wife and found a primary care physician, I immediately triggered the expected medical responses. I was morbidly obese by our healthcare system's flawed BMI metric. My blood pressure was high. Follow-ups were a given to monitor my vitals and weight, because you know America hates fat people. I’d struggled with my weight and health since my teenage years, so I wasn't surprised and just went along with it. No changes in behavior meant eventually taking a daily, prescription blood pressure medication for years.

By that late December appointment in 2021, however, my doctor told me my second, follow-up blood glucose panel was bad. Like, type-II diabetes bad.

Here's the thing - I’ve known big folks like me who ate healthy and required no medication. Folks who still managed to enjoy at least semi-active lifestyles. I wasn't that. While I believe I'm somewhat genetically predisposed to hang on to body fat, I also know I personally lived a sedentary lifestyle and ate like absolute garbage. Nothing I’d tried in 20 years worked to change my behavior over the long term, but here I was staring down a closer-than-comfortable future where my family might not have me around.

I didn't want to ruin the holidays, so I waited to tell my wife after we got back from her mom's in early January, 2022. Yeah, it sounds like a New Year's resolution, but those aren’t healthy. This was coincidental timing. At any rate, I pretty much immediately changed how I was eating, trying out various alternatives and finding the right snacks to keep me going without relying on the wrong stuff.


In April of the same year I had some positive feedback on my progress from the doctor, and he convinced me to add regular exercise. Surprise! Eating better meant I actually had the energy to start slow with 30 minutes per day walking around my neighborhood. My walking pace picked up. My distance and time increased. My walking and resting heart rates started decreasing. But I found after 1.5 months I had energy to spare and needed some way to burn it. So I talked to my wife about buying a used bike.


I have always loved riding bikes since I first learned how around 6 or 7 years old. I grew up on the Jersey Shore in the 80s when tearing up the streets on your BMX was a sign of ultimate freedom. That was disrupted by my family's move to a rural highway when I was almost 13, where riding a bike would have been suicidal (think logging trucks at 60+ MPH).

I picked it back up in college since I lived in a city, even riding to work and around town from time to time. But my wife and I spent the first 1.5 years of marriage after school living in a suburban apartment complex. I had started to fall out of shape already and didn't have a lot of safe/inviting places to ride without first having to drive somewhere. I had a few other failed attempts to get back into riding when we bought a house in the city, but I never had the right size bike and my health continued to decline.


That photo at the top of the post was the used bike I purchased - it fit right, and while I was apprehensive about a single speed in a hilly town, I loved how it felt to ride, and the price was right. Initially I struggled to ride more than a few miles before I was exhausted, and only rode a few times a week. But my deep love of riding was reawakened, and it also provided the necessary outlet for all this additional energy. Two rides a week became five. Two mile rides stretched out longer and longer as time and my energy (and middle aged knees) permitted. I remember riding a horrible, bike-unfriendly route out to the suburbs and back on this single speed bike, clocking over 20 mies on a hot Saturday morning. My doctor convinced me to rent a bike during my beach vacation (which I did) so I could keep up my riding.

My 2015 Fairdale Coaster lying on the street, busted up in various places

On the morning of September 1st, 2022, I was hit by a truck while riding to a coffee shop. Most of the bike (save the front wheel and various accessories) was mostly fine and I had no serious injuries, but I worried about how long it would take to replace or fix the bike so I wouldn't be derailed. Fortunately, I was back on my new, replacement bike (paid for by the driver) five days after the accident. Ten speeds gave me the freedom to explore more of the city, further away from my home, and that was all she wrote. I had no interest in racing. I'm too worried about crashing for aggressive mountain biking (ironic, right?). But I absolutely love riding around wherever I point my wheel, for as much time as I have available.

I kept riding as the weather cooled off. I took my bike to Wisconsin over Thanksgiving so I could keep riding, even in the sub-freezing cold! At this point, my riding is mostly limited by my available time.

Me standing behind my bike at the 0 mile marker at the Jamestown end of the Virginia Capital Trail

So last month, less than a year after getting back on a bike, I finally rode the entire Virginia Capital Trail from the Richmond end to Williamsburg (okay, technically, from my house NW of the Richmond trailhead to Jamestown Park at the other end). I tacked on some extra miles and ended up riding 70.5 miles over the course of a day. I'm hoping by my birthday in early November to ride the whole trail out and back in a day - about 110 miles from my door to Jamestown and back. I'm certain I can do it if I get the right weather. A year ago I wasn't sure I’d be able to ride more than 10 miles at a time.


Look, I'm not trying to brag. I'm not a super man. I got lucky finding something I love at the right time in the right context. But I *do* want to celebrate, because in the course of trying to steal some extra years on this earth with my family, I regained an activity I loved as a child, with at least as much fervor in adulthood. I can't wait to reflect on all the places I’ve ridden after another year.