Why I Ride a Bicycle
By Dan Sheridan
Originally Published in Marion Star April 12, 2009
My fitness revelation came at age 34, on a sunny afternoon in July, 1992.
After nearly a decade without regular exercise, I decided to go for a bicycle ride. My bike had hung untouched in the garage for years, so I filled the empty tires and lubricated the chain before rolling down the driveway. Soon I was sweating as I pedaled out Marion-Edison Road to State Route 98 and back.
Exhausted from the six mile journey, I collapsed on the couch at home and wondered how I got so out of shape. I perceived myself as reasonably fit, but a short bicycle ride proved otherwise. Embarrassed, I vowed to get in shape by cycling several times a week.
A few days later my wife, Shelly, and I had dinner with our friends Theresa and Randy Leite. Theresa told me that Randy planned to ride the 100 mile MGH Popcorn Bicycle Tour six weeks later, and encouraged me to join him. I resisted, but Theresa was persistent and enthusiastic. I didn't commit to the ride, but I did agree to start training and make a decision in a few weeks. (Note: The Popcorn Tour no longer has a 100 mile option.)
I'd had the same bicycle since I was 14 years old. The chain was rusty, the tires were rotting, and the bike was too small for me. Deciding that it was time for a new bicycle, I visited Rocky's Cyclery, where Rocky outfitted me with a relatively inexpensive touring bicycle. After adding two water bottles and a small cycling computer, I was ready to ride.
With three young children, we spent many summer days at the Waldo pool. That August, Shelly drove the kids to the pool and I bicycled down to meet them. On days that we didn't swim, I went for cool, misty morning rides or warm evening rides. When we visited my in-laws in Upper Sandusky, I bicycled there, stashing the bike in the back of our minivan for the trip home. As my enthusiasm grew, I sent in my registration for the Popcorn Ride.
September 12th arrived, and it was time to attempt my first 100 mile “century ride”. I nervously met Randy at the start, and we set off with the other riders. Leaving McKinley Park, we followed a police escort south on Delaware Avenue before turning east on Barks Road and south on Richland Road. Winding eastward, we crossed interstate 71, and then traveled north to our lunch stop at a shelter house on the banks of Clear Fork Reservoir.
Woody Barry, from Marion, rode with us for a few minutes near the lunch stop. Woody encouraged me, saying “The first century is the most fun.” I needed the encouragement, as the route soon led us into a hilly region north of the reservoir. I struggled to climb the hills, but managed to puff up each one without walking.
The terrain leveled as we traveled west through Galion and then southwest toward Marion. Randy and I stopped at Ridgedale High School and collapsed in the cool grass under a small tree. After our break, our tired legs pushed us into Marion, and we were soon eating ice cream at McKinley Park. I was thrilled to see the “100” on my bicycle computer.
Nearly seventeen years have passed since that first century ride. I've ridden many more centuries, but I still feel the same sense of accomplishment at the end.
I enjoy short ice cream rides across town with my little boy, and weeklong rides with both of my sons. Sometimes a solo ride down quiet country roads is a perfect end to a hectic day, and other times I enjoy the companionship of friends on breakfast trips to nearby towns. I ride for exercise, for relaxation, and to satisfy my sense of adventure. I experience the richness of the seasons, and build lasting friendships with my cycling companions.
For the next few months, I will share weekly stories and information about bicycling. Perhaps you too will dig out your old bicycle, pump up the tires, and go for a spin ?
Dan Sheridan on the 2008 Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (Photo by Alex Sheridan)