I read somewhere that riding a bicycle is good for the heart. I didn’t know it could get so many hearts pumping all at once.
It started when my car demanded an oil change. A dashboard light suggesting an immediate oil change had been flashing for a couple weeks. Then the vehicle started muddling around like a mother of four before her morning cup of coffee. It was time.
I had the oil. I needed to dash into town for a filter. But not in the car.
I rooted around the house until I found my daughter’s old Dora the Explorer backpack and contorted my shoulders until it squeezed into breath-pinching place. I snapped on a shiny purple riding helmet hidden in the garage so as not to blind anyone. Lacking riding gloves, I pulled on fuzzy, brown winter mittens.
I blew the dust off my bicycle and started pedaling for town.
It would, I calculated, do my heart good.
Halfway there, I felt the handlebars loosen.
I am too tall for my hand-me-down bike, so I notch my seat up extra high to keep my knees out of my chest. Likewise, I pull up the handlebar as far as I can without it falling out, then bolt it into place.
Apparently not tightly enough. The swaying handlebars considered a southerly direction while the rest of the bike held steady to the west.
With careful aiming, I made it to the auto parts store. It was a large parking lot. I bought the filter, chucked it into the Dora the Explorer backpack cramping my spine, checked wind direction and sun position, and aimed for home.
That’s when the steering gave out. The bars flopped all the way to the left while the front wheel pondered right.
Twisting my torso just right and holding pressure on the handlebars while manipulating what center of gravity was left, I could control the direction I was headed, as long as I wasn’t too specific.
Then the bolt let go. The jacked-up bars thunked to the bottom of the steering column, and the top half of me crashed out of sight with them.
So with aft waving high, purple helmet down low, trunk twisted and Dora battering my neck, I continued to hold handlebars to the left to pedal forward. Sometimes left, sometimes right, but mostly forward.
Then the seat began to buckle.
I stretched my high-flying rear as far back and as high as I could go while maintaining the sharp drop with a twist to my body necessary to hold the handlebars in place while almost being able to look in front of me.
I was thankful I changed sweatpants before setting out. Under normal circumstances, you would hardly notice the rip. Under these conditions, no secrets could be long concealed.
At long last, I came to my turn. I tucked my purple-helmeted head under my armpit to glance behind me. I nearly finished tying myself into a knot when I saw that a string of cars had sneaked up behind me. I hadn’t heard them over the huffing and puffing and the extremely healthy pounding of my heart.
I picked up one fuzzy, brown-mittened hand to signal one direction while the handlebars aimed for a second, the front tire lurched for a third and my butt pointed to a fourth, more glorious choice.
Judging by the expressions behind the windshields, mine wasn’t the only heart palpitating as we all tried to figure out which of the four directions I’d wobble next.
That’s when my shoelace caught on the pedal and I discovered a new option to the meanderings. The bike’s sudden change of plans inspired a whole new dimension of aerobic activity in the motorists and me.
Now I know why spinning is a popular exercise – those bikes never leave the building.
When I finally careened into my driveway, I clunked the oil filter on the garage shelf and told the car it would have to drink a cup of coffee instead. I wasn’t going near anything else with wheels.
Any more health and my heart will attack.