For most of my adult life I had the goal of becoming the most physically powerful man in the world.
Many, many hours in the weight room, and running and swimming.
At ages 46 and 48 I had two catastrophic training injuries.
The second one kinda did me in.
I gained weight and my physical abilities steadily declined.
About three years ago a fellow worker my age encouraged me to try a recovery.
I found a good physical therapist who used the Feldenkrais method; I bought a bike; and I sold my car.
I've lost fifty-plus pounds and so thoroughly enjoy riding my bike that I feel sorry for people trapped
I also seem to have plateaued.
Some of this I want to attribute to the aging process (58 years).
However, a personal study I did on the aging process suggests that true aging does not begin until the 63rd year of life.
Prior to 63, most of what we attribute to age really comes from less than optimal body management.
In other words, if at age 18 we provided ourselves with perfect amounts of the right kinds of exercise and food; and if we slept adequately and avoided stress, injury, illness and harmful substances and practices, we would remain relatively young until the age of 63; at which time, an unavoidable aging process would begin.
Do we have genetic differences that would lead us to have different experiences with aging?
In general, though, we do not truly begin to age until age 63.
That gives me another five years of recovery, and I want to begin the unavoidable part of this aging process in as good a condition of health as a I can possibly acheive.
But good health - - kinda nebulous.
If it doesn't hurt does that make it good health?
I realized I needed some sort of goal that would motivate me and, at the same time, would not get me back into my old self-destructive habits of abusive exercise regimens.
For myself, I have chosen a fixed gear bike as my goal.
By that I mean, I intend to pursue my physical therapy with such attentiveness to my wellness (as opposed to my strength or physical prowess) that I can eventually ride a fixed gear bike without injuring myself, and especially, without injuring my knees.
For those not familiar with fixed gear bikes, the term refers to a bike that has only one gear and the rear axle does not allow for coasting.
If the rear wheel goes around, the pedals go around.
Conventional wisdom says that persons over the age of 45 cannot ride fixed gear bikes without experiencing knee pain.
High spin rates alternating with high loads at lower spin rates leads to complaining knees.
However, a local (and famous) knee specialist, and my physical therapist, both say that the pain associated with fixed gear bikes and knees comes from less-than-perfect body mechanics and not from the loads imposed by a fixed gear bike (your mileage may vary).
They have suggested to me that with careful study, proper exercise and preparation, and appropriate gear ratios, that a fixed gear bike represents a good goal and a real benchmark of having attained an all around useful and functional body.
What about this appropriate gear thing?
Fixed gear track bikes and messenger bikes typically come with a 48 tooth front chain ring and a 16 tooth rear cog on the rear axle.
With 700 X 35 tires, this comes out to about 81" traveled over the ground for every revolution of the pedals.
Perfect for an 18 year-old.
I found a gear on my commuter bike that gave me this number of inches per revolution (81") and rode it that way for a week.
My knees started to complain.
My therapist said I had bitten off too much to chew and I still had a lot to learn about my body mechanics.
Back to the drawing board.
So, a few more months of therapy and careful exercise, and I tried riding a gear ratio that gave me 63" of travel over the ground for every revolution of the pedals.
Recently, I have upped it to a gear ratio that gives me 72" of travel for every revolution of the pedals, and I find that doable with only a little bit of complaining from my knees.
Generally, when my knees complain, they do so real time
and this directs me to examine my body mechanics.
I will probably not progress beyond 72", and then again, I might.
I might even go back down to 63".
It doesn't matter (gettin' my head screwed on right, finally).
Now I have begun to study fixed gear bikes in earnest.
I have set the goal for myself of organizing my body to where I can ride a true fixed gear bike, geared at 72", at least one day out of the week, without pain.
Mostly because it represents the edge of what I can do, now, on my 24 speed commuter.
This coming spring, or the spring after that, or after that, I would like to ride a fixed gear bike around my community as my commuter and go-places bike and enjoy it as thoroughly as I presently enjoy my conventional multi-gear bike.
I would consider this a victory of sorts, and any and every year after my 63rd birthday in which I could ride a fixed gear bike would, to me, equate to earning the privilege of wearing a Super Bowl ring.
Not to take away from anyone who has earned the privilege of wearing a Super Bowl ring, but priorities change with age, eh?