Florida. The land of retirees and a whole different pace of life. While we technically fit into the retiree category, we have not yet adopted a more leisurely pace. So it’s a bit of an adjustment to adapt to this alternate lifestyle. Even for a short visit. But with the loan of my sister-in-law’s bike, I’m making progress.
It’s called a cruiser. One speed, fat tires, big wide handlebars, a cushy seat and coaster brakes. Hers must be a designer model as it also has white sidewalls and is an eye-catching mint green. Truly a classic.
We all had this kind of bikes as kids – it’s what we learned on. So it should be intuitive, right? Well, not quite. After spending the last two years perfecting the nuances of my long distance touring bike with it’s umpteen speeds and cycling shoes, suddenly this masterpiece of simplicity felt foreign beneath me.
My first challenge was the handlebars. Their wide reach meant that any small movement was magnified by the front tire, making it extremely sensitive. As I set off down the road, I felt as though I was veering right and left. I was just certain that I would plow into the path of the next approaching car. Fortunately, it quickly evened out as I pedaled.
The bigger hurdle was stopping. How the heck was I supposed to use my feet for both braking and standing up when I stopped? I don’t remember that ever being an issue as a kid. Perhaps as an adult I think too much. I’m sure I left a few layers of rubber sole on the pavement at the first few intersections. But I gradually got the hang of braking with one foot and dropping the other to catch myself before falling. Mostly. I admit I’m still working on smoothing out that technique.
Thankfully, this area has wonderful bike paths. Wide, smoothly paved and totally lacking in hills, they are perfect for cruising on a bike. Once off the neighborhood streets, blissfully safe from cars and with few intersections, I began to get into the experience. I enjoyed the cooling effect of the wind on the hot, sunny afternoon. Lacking my tight fitting cycling gear, I relished the sloppy way my soccer shorts flapped in the wind, and my loose T-shirt fluttered around me. No need to be aerodynamic.
With only one speed, I discovered the joy of coasting. On gentle downward slopes, the bike sped up of its own accord. I couldn’t ratchet up any gears for more force, and it was pointless to spin my feet faster and faster in an attempt to catch up with the speed of the tires. So the only thing to do was glide and enjoy it. Whee!
When I did cross the occasional drive, I made sure to slow down and anticipate traffic. With an occasional wobble when cars approached, I figured they must think me a doddering grandma out on my bike. Then I realized that’s just what I was! A humbling thought, but not enough to deter me.
Riding for the pure joy of being outside in beautiful weather soon took over. Miles were inconsequential. Speed was meaningless. Distance didn’t matter. A novel experience. Life in the slow lane. I think I’m starting to get it.