Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

05 February 2016

Dave Mirra R.I.P.

In this blog, I haven't written much about Bicycle Motocross, or BMX.  My omission is not out of disrespect; I don't touch on the sport very much because, having never ridden BMX myself, I know very little about it.  I have a lot of respect for the riders, as their sport requires a lot of bicycle, as well as other, skills that are gained only through a lot of disciplined work.  Plus, a double flip is quite the spectacle!

Dave Mirra was the first person to pull off that maneuver, in 2000.  Every year from 1995 until 2008 (with the exception of 2006, when he was injured), he won medals--including 14 golds--at the X Games.  It's been said that he is to BMX as Michael Jordan was to basketball; perhaps we could say he was to his sport as Eddy Mercx was to road racing.  Perhaps he was even more integral to BMX than anyone else was to his or her sport:  The first year he medaled at the X games was the first year they were held!

But it wasn't just his daring feats that made him a celebrity; his engaging personality made him a popular guest on shows like David Letterman's and a host MTV's Real World/Road Rules Challenge.  It's no surprise, then, that video games were named after him.

Sometimes he seemed invincible, as if there were no walls that could contain him and no boundaries he couldn't conquer. 

Until now.  Sadly, he was found today in his truck with "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound," according to police in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he has lived for many years. 

Whatever the circumstances, his death is sad, especially since he is only 41 years old and leaves a wife and two daughters.  But if he indeed killed himself (he left no suicide note), it begs the question of whether his many falls caused long-term damage that led to the depression he was said to be suffering.  That question is especially valid in light of the experiences of former NFL players (like Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012) whose repeated hits to the head led to brain damage that resulted in depression.


04 February 2016

Hey Dude! Catch This Wave!

For a few years, I did a pretty fair amount of mountain biking.  I even had two "crews" I rode with.  In one of them, I was the only white, non-Caribbean rider; in the other I was the oldest.  We rode, went out to eat, went to movies and engaged in all sorts of ribaldry.   And we talked a lot of trash--to and about each other and everyone else in the world, it seemed--all in good fun, of course.

I have never surfed, but somehow this milieu reminded me of what I always imagine "boarders" enjoyed with each other.  We had a kind of high-octane testosterone-fueled camaraderie and egged each other on in making fast turns and drops and, on occasion, chatting up women.  (Oh, if they could see me now..;-)).  Much of the slang we, and other mountain bikers, used at that time was that of surfers.  Someone who took a tumble "wiped out", tough terrain was "gnarly" and anything particularly pleasurable or exhilarating was "bitchin'! and could leave us "stoked".

Oh, yeah, and the way we, and other mountain bikers used the word "dude".  Yes, it was a slang term for anyone male, but it was also used as an all-purpose rhetorical exclamation. "Du-u--de!" Lots of riders would yell it when bombing down a steep drop. 

It all made sense to me when I realized that in some ways, mountain biking--especially the downhill variety--has a similar thrill, a kind of adrenaline rush, that "riding the waves" does.  Even cross-country riding has some of that feel:  When you ride fast through turns and over rocks, creeks and such, after a certain point, it's not about how hard or fast you're pedaling; you stay on your bike and move forward to the degree that you can ride the "waves" of whatever terrain your tire treads roll over.

So, I guess, it does make sense that someone actually created this:

From Charlie Kelly's website

"Soon to Revolutionize Self Propelled (sic) Recreational Vehicles"?  It must really be revolutionary if the rider doesn't need a helmet or other protective equipment!

03 February 2016

Why Do--And Don't--Women Ride?

In late 2014, People for Bikes commissioned a study on women's participation in cycling.

Its findings confirmed some things I'd suspected but revealed other things that surprised me.

My own experiences and observations have shown me that more males than females cycle.  According to the study, 45 million women ride a bicycle at least once a year, compared to 59 million men.  In other words, about 43 percent of all adult cyclists are women.  Given what I've seen, I'm not surprised by those statistics. 

Nor am I surprised by another PfB finding, interesting as it is:  Boys and girls ride bikes at the same rate at ages three to nine.  At ten years of age, girls and women start to ride less than men and boys. The gap grows as they grow older, and is its widest at ages 55 and older.

That, in spite of something else the surveys revealed:  Almost the same numbers of women and men say they would like to bike more often.  One of the reasons women most commonly cite for not cycling is simply not having a working bicycle available at home.  This is a factor for somewhat higher of numbers of women than for men. 

Safety concerns are another deterrent to cycling for many women. While the numbers of women who worry about being struck by a car is roughly equal to the numbers of men who express such concerns, women are much more likely than men to cite fears about their own personal safety as a reason for not cycling.

One of the study's revelations that surprised me somewhat is that 94 percent of female cyclists rode for recreation while  68 percent rode for transportation to and from social and leisure activities.  Actually, I'm only somewhat surprised by the second figure, but more so by the first, based on my own observations and impressions here in New York City.

The most surprising part of the study (at least to me) is this:  A much higher percentage (31) of women with children than without (19) rode at least once a year.  Then again, the study found the same held true for men (46 vs. 31 percent).  These contradict a UCLA study that suggested women don't ride because they need their cars to handle childcare responsibilities. 

Knowing about the People for Bikes study leads me to wonder whether women's actual and perceived barriers to cycling can be overcome--and whether doing so would change the ways in which women ride.  If more women started to ride to work, and if more of us started to ride our bikes to social and other activities, would more women take up long-distance touring, racing and other genres of cycling in which the gap between women's and men's participation is even greater?