The Incredible Bike Riding Adventures

Have you noticed? Roadsides around Montecito are abloom with cyclists. These brightly-attired, hump-backed, two-wheeled creatures are drawn to our ultra-scenic foothills. Scientists think it has something to do with the quantity of hyphenated adjectives required to describe them.

Look closely this Saturday, and you might realize the guy in the bright green jersey is my husband, who, at 50, thinks nothing of riding for miles with his cycling buddy, Trainer Dan. Upon returning home, my Lycra-clad hubby punches a couple of buttons on his heart-rate monitor and announces, “I burned 3,856 calories!”

Cycling is great exercise. Unfortunately, my recent participation in the sport has been to admire my old bicycle hanging forlornly from garage rafters, while I do laundry (17 calories). It wasn’t always that way.

Once upon a time, when I was 5, back in the days before calories had been invented, I climbed onto my 10-year-old brother’s Schwinn and balanced in midair like an advanced yogi, until I realized I was able reach the handlebars and get a tiptoe on one pedal. Then, if I hurled myself upward and to the right, I could reach the other pedal. Back again to the left, and, voila, I was doing it. The only way I could stop was to fall over, but so what? I’d figured out how to ride a bicycle.

When my brother saw me flat on the ground, he yelled, “What are you doing with my bike?” After that he locked his precious Schwinn in the shed. I begged Mom for my own bicycle, and she said OK, but only if I gave up my blankie. I loved my blankie, but I wanted a bicycle more. Before you could say “cold turkey,” I had my very own bright turquoise two-wheeler.

Flash forward 20 years, when I agreed to go out with a serious cyclist. Our first date was a tandem bicycle ride from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria for breakfast. There’s nothing that perks an appetite like screaming down Torro Canyon at 50 miles per hour with nothing between you and sudden death but wind whistling through your Lycra shorts.

And to my addled mind, there was nothing sexier than a bicycle built for two. Once romance entered the picture, it was only a matter of time before I had snazzy cycling gear and was pedaling with my new love over Gaviota Pass for an aebleskiver brunch in Solvang. And, after making it back down San Marcos Pass alive, with brakes smoking (8,837 calories), there was no doubt there’d be wedding bells down the road.

Each schmaltzy story about bicycling begins in its own way, but many of them end with the acquisition of a mortgage and the purchase of a Volvo station wagon. This is why so many fancy bikes are stashed in garages, where they hang, collecting dust.

However, when I recently remembered how many calories bicycling could burn, I dusted off my old bike and took that first remedial ride. The saddle was too high. I didn’t get my feet in the toe clips. And I couldn’t reach the brakes. By the time I got to the bottom of the driveway, I was doing 40 miles per hour and was in total panic mode (500 calories). Still, I managed to stop the bike before a car hit me, and I didn’t fall over.

When I told my exercise buddies about my incredible bike riding adventure, it not only got them thinking about giving cycling a try themselves, but it reminded them of their childhood bikes.

Toni said, “My brother and I decorated our bicycles with crepe paper streamers and rode in the Fourth of July parade, while the band played John Philip Sousa.”

“Anybody remember attaching playing cards to your spokes to make a rat-a-tat-tat?” Linda asked.

“My sister and I copied that from boys,” Susan replied.

“Think we can do that again, now that we’re on the cusp of second childhood?” Linda asked.

“Sure, but we’ll still need bright orange flags to warn people to get out of our way,” Susan said.

“We should go shopping for new bikes,” Toni said.

I said, “Shopping burns lots of calories. Let’s go.”

So fair notice to the bicycle shops: Expect four middle-aged “girls” looking for comfy bikes in retro turquoise, with streamers and baskets. We’ll start there, but don’t be surprised if one Sunday soon you see the four of us decked out in rainbow Lycra, screaming down Torro Canyon toward Carp.

How many calories? Who’s counting?