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Last fall I sold my duplex and moved in with my partner, her partner, and their kids. It’s a small house but in a very nice neighborhood and while I miss many of the things about living alone it is really nice to be living with family again.
One of the downsides of moving into a very small house with four other humans, three dogs (at the time: the eldest, Toby, unfortunately died a week and a half ago), many rodents, and assorted insects and arthropods is that there is not much room for one’s existing very nice recumbent exercise bike. We finally did find a space for it sometime around February but I have yet to get it out of storage and move it into the dark and cramped basement to find out if that space will work or not.
The reason the exercise bike exists in my life at all is that during my divorce I knew I needed to do something to stay active and I fondly remembered my high school days when I would go out and spend time by myself biking 10-30 miles around the countryside so I got the aforementioned recumbent. That first winter and the five subsequent years it was a simple reminder and easy task to just get on and do 15-30min with easy access to watching TV or even playing Xbox from it. Two years ago I borrowed my dad’s mountain bike to test the theory that if I had a real bike I might make use of it to even get around town and while the experiment was not an unqualified success it did essentially show that Have Bike, Will Travel. With finances showing more positive aspects than they had in years, April was the time to finally invest in the results of that experiment.
I knew from the borrowing experiment that a mountain bike was not what I needed. While the front shocks would sometimes be nice, more often I found I was too mushy a ride and absorbed too much energy. Likewise when I replaced the knobby tires with decent road tires half way through that summer the effort required to bike to work was reduced immensely and the reduced vibration in the handlebars improved ride comfort in the handlebars by a frankly immeasurable quantity. So I knew I didn’t need a mountain bike or really just about any of it’s features except for a nice wide handlebar. I also knew from past experience that the head down posture of a road bike was a sentence to back torture so it was time to head out and look into cruisers and hybrid styles.
I stopped first at the Roseville location of Erik’s Bike Shops and after looking through the racks and getting the attention of a really very friendly and helpful sales person pretty much ignored the cruisers and went straight for the hybrids. The Giant Cypress was a good start but felt a bit too much like the mountain bike, albeit with more grace and more trim profile. The Cannondale Quick series seemed to be about the best match of price and features but still didn’t quite feel right. A third option that I don’t remember the make or model had a really nice gearing system internal to the rear axle but didn’t really seem to be worth the $200 price premium. Having done enough car shopping with my parents in my youth it was time to get a quote for a Quick 1 and head out to my next stop to see what else was available.
The plan had been to move on to a local independent and then over to REI as a final stop, but my search ended at that local independent. The Bicycle Chain at Larpenteur and Lexington in Roseville (in the same strip mall as Key’s) turned out to not only have exactly what I was looking for as well as having a really top notch staff, but also to have everything cheaper then Erik’s and the prices at REI that I had checked online. It’s not a big store but they make good use of their space to carry a pair of wheels for just about everyone and everything, and even have some unicycles for the daring. I rode a different model of Giant that I found as unimpressive as the Cypress and then tried a closeout 2009 Specialized Sirrus Elite and fell in love. It’s light. It’s smooth. More importantly it’s fiendishly comfortable even when cranking really hard up the long hills endemic to my new neighborhood. Better yet I spent the same amount on this bike with a huge slew of accessories and upgrades (new pedals with ultra-smooth bearings, fancy computer, bright lights, and a car rack) as that quote from Erik’s that was summarily recycled when I got home.
Now that it’s home I have been pretty uneven about actually using it. Commuting to work from here in anything but a car is completely different kind of exercise: In frustration and fear of life and limb. 16 miles isn’t really so far except when it’s through some of the most bike un-friendly portions of this otherwise very bike accommodating metropolis. Sure I could add another 15 miles onto that trip and do it in great comfort along a whole series of trails but, like the mass transit system around here, if you are going anywhere but one of the downtowns you are screwed and 31 miles in one direction to get to work is a bit much. Thankfully my partner came up with a better idea for more exercise.
She and her partner have been sending their kids to classes at Circus Juventus since the kids have been old enough to do so. Seeing them learn the circus arts has been amazing and incredibly fun so when J suggested that we sign up for the summer session of the Circus Arts for Adults class, I thought about it a bit and said yes anyway.
Three classes into our 8 class session I can say that I am thankful they are honest in the print description of the class in saying that pretty much everyone is accommodated no matter experience or ability. I am not precisely the most agile or dexterous person I know and I never learned to do such basic physical tricks as climbing a rope or doing a cartwheel. But for all that I am having a blast. So far we have done Triple Trapeze, German Wheel, Globes, Tumble Track, Tumbling/Acrobatics, Mini-Tramp/Vault, Spanish Web, Low Wire, Pyramid, Trampoline, and Low Casting. Of those I have found that flips and rolls are the easiest, which I’m partially thanking early experience playing goal in soccer and later experience with Aikido, while just about anything involving the use of my arms is the hardest. I have also probably done more push-ups and crunches/sit-ups/whatever they’re called these days in the last three weeks then over the course of my entire lifetime. It’s hard. It’s incredibly exhausting. I can not always raise my arms above my shoulders afterwards. It is worth every penny and very highly recommended.