The Spring Tune-Up

Last week I took my bicycle to the local shop for a spring tune-up. I did that even though the temperature was in the low 30’s and I am in a surgical boot because of a minor surgery, which was not so minor, 4 months ago. Despite the apparent impediments to riding my bicycle, getting it serviced is a spring ritual that I have been doing since I was a boy.

What I love about riding my bicycle is how it makes me feel. It is easy on Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), and Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). Since I have started to lean forward more as I walk, I find that even short distance walks are becoming increasingly difficult. This coupled with the fact that I have never been a very coordinated person can make even simple walks difficult. Interestingly, I find leaning forward is an asset on a bicycle, so it is a great way to enjoy the outdoors.

More than just exercise

I can talk about the benefits of riding my bicycle for RA and diabetes but in truth, my love of bicycling began when I was a boy. My parents allowed (or put up with me, more likely) riding as far as I wanted. My only restriction was that I had to be home by the time the street light in front of my house came on.

When I was 17, I gave up my bicycle in favor of a car, job, college, marriage and children. After the birth of our sons, Sheryl and I rediscovered the joy of riding bicycles once again, this time with two little guys strapped on the back in their seats. We would ride around our neighborhood and sometimes out into the countryside. Later in life as my job responsibilities increased I lost the desire and time to ride a bicycle at all.


Then, when RA took my ability to work, and I had to be home all day I rediscovered my love for bicycling. My first summer away from work I bought a bicycle and made myself pedal around our neighborhood being lucky if I could ride 5 miles a few times per week. Following a hip replacement, the doctor made me use a three-wheel contraption I called the “silver streak” and my total mileage declined as peddling was more difficult on an adult tricycle.

Then 3 years after surgery my doctor said I could return to a bicycle and those words did not even get out of his mouth until I was at the local bike shop picking out a new ride. Today I ride about 400 miles each summer, I seldom venture outside our neighborhood but once again I am joined by Sheryl, who indulges me going downhill faster than she might like and the challenge of trying to beat my coasting record from the hill leading off the neighborhood golf course drive.

These days when I ride my bicycle I enjoy the sun, the heat, the summer shade and seeing the many faces of people who live in my neighborhood. Riding with Sheryl makes my bicycle time far more enjoyable and I even enjoy playing music on my iPhone as I cruise along. Incidentally, this bicycle is called the “sound machine”. But in the end what I love most is the sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of each summer. Having a physical goal that I can obtain appeals to the competitor in me and it provides some limited benefit to my health.

Today when I dropped my bicycle off for the spring tune up it was an act of hope. Hope that warm weather will arrive and that my foot will heal.  It is the hope founded in youth but still real despite this 60-year-old body with RA, AS and Diabetes. Yet no matter how old I am, my actions still have limits. I obligate myself to get home by the time the street lights turn on. So, it is true some things just never change.

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