Over the last couple of weeks I had the desire to go back and read Heft On Wheels by Mike Magnuson again. I had let someone borrow mine and never got it back so I went and bought another copy. In fact, I finished it last week and have started it again. Why am I so interested in his story? For one thing it’s inspirational reading about a 255 pound overweight, chain-smoking, borderline alcoholic who turns his life around with a bicycle. Second, I can relate. The more I payed attention to it I started to notice a lot of parallels between Mike and myself. They are:
1. I’ve always ridden a bike. I can always remember having a bicycle of one type or another and riding it everywhere. One of the first ones I remember was silver and had a banana seat. I have no idea what brand it was but that’s not important. We lived sort-of in the country when I was this age and couldn’t ride our bikes really anywhere other than the two acres we lived on. My brother and I tore up those two acres though!
Jumping our bikes was one of our favorite activities. I remember setting up a huge ramp one time using an old basketball backboard that was actually half a sheet of plywood. This jump in particular stands out because I vividly remember failing to get enough speed on the approach and basically tumbling over the end of the ramp. I had a pretty nasty bruise from taking the end of the handlebars in the stomach but other than that escaped injury. I’m really surprised we didn’t seriously injure ourselves.
When I was 10 we moved to the city and we continued riding our bikes. We had a friend whose dad had collected a bunch of old junk bicycles and we would mix and match parts to make the ultimate machines. That’s where I cut my teeth on working on my bikes.
We would rides our bikes everywhere. To the local fishing hole, downtown, going to the store for my parents, etc. Imagine a little kid riding back from the grocery store with shopping bags hanging from the handlebars. That would be me on many occasion.
When I was in high school the Youth Director at my Church and I would ride our bikes across town to a friends house where we would stash our bikes and then run back home. Kind of like a duathlon. The next day we would run to our bikes and then ride home. It was about a five mile trip one-way.
2. I’ve always liked watching the professional bicycle racers on TV. Ever since I can remember I’ve watched the Tour De France. I remember trying to catch bits and pieces of it on Wide World of Sports back when Lemond was America’s only hope in the race. He was the sports figure I looked up to back then. Can’t say that I agree with him now-a-days but he helped shape my love for the sport of cycling. I remember when Lance Armstrong first started riding in the TDF and when he abandoned the race before being diagnosed with Cancer. I watched intently as Miguel Indurain won his five Tour de France races followed by Lance. Like Mike I received all the popular catalogs (Nashbar, Performance, and Colorado Cyclist) and drooled over them. Man I loved cycling.
3. When I joined the military right after high school I forgot about cycling. I’d still catch it once in a while on TV and always looked forward to July but I wasn’t able to ride again for a while. While on deployments overseas I had always hoped to be able to be in France in July and maybe catch a stage in person. That never happened though.
Then in 1994 I had the opportunity to do a bicycle ride from Connecticut to Ohio to help raise money for the children’s hospital in Akron. I jumped at the opportunity and bought my first true road bike. The Cannondale R-300 that I still ride today. I didn’t know much about serious road bikes at the time and probably didn’t get as good a bike as I should have. I really enjoyed that bike ride. I trained by myself for it by riding to and from work. Doing some long rides on the weekends and so on. Looking back I’m surprised we didn’t have any group rides.
4. I forgot about cycling again. After that trip to Ohio my life got busy again after being selected for Officer Candidate School and I moved quite a few times again. I tell myself that I had no time to ride but I drug that bike around with me everywhere. I kept it indoors so it wouldn’t feel the effects of weather (often suffering the wrath of my wife). I would see it all the time and it would never dawn on me that I could use it to help me with my weight problem. That’s probably not true though. I knew it could help me but I was just too lazy to use it. Every once in a while I would get the urge to ride and would drag it out for a spin or two. I even had it overhauled once or twice in anticipation putting in some epic time but I failed to follow through.
5. I liked to eat. I liked food and it liked me. Too much in fact. Super-sized fast food meals were a staple in my diet and were essentially another food group for me. I knew it was bad but didn’t care. I drank way too many soft drinks. I would eventually cut over to diet drinks but are they really that much better? How many people do you see order the double quarter-pounder with cheese, super-sized, with a diet coke? That was me. Ironic isn’t it? My love of food eventually cost me dearly but that’s another story for another time.
6. I knew I had a problem. Unlike Mike I don’t have an alcohol or smoking problem. Never did. The food though we have in common and it was going to kill me. After seeing my dad have a heart attack at an early age I should have taken the hint then. I was too stupid to do anything about it. Not until about a year ago when I started this blog. The last six months though were rough, especially with Dad passing, and I think I’ve finally started to get the message. It’s a shame it takes stuff like that to make us listen.