Life on Two Wheels (aka: Why You Should Ride a Bike)

What if I were to tell you that I know a way that you can easily save on perhaps $100 per month is gasoline? And then, what if I were to tell you that I know a simple way to burn off up to 3000 calories per month? How about a very effective way to contribute to a greener, healthier environment? Okay, now how about all three things at the same time? No, I am not kidding. Here is the secret: Ride a Bicycle.

That’s it. Plain and simple. Oh, don’t roll your eyes. There are so many benefits to bicycle riding, not only as a form of exercise, but as a major form of local transportation. So what is keeping you from driving less and biking more? Hmm, let’s see:

1. A Bike is Too Expensive

Well, for some people, this may be true. Some families can not afford to purchase a bicycle, or a car. But for many families and individuals, buying a bicycle may be more affordable than you think. There is no need to look to pricey bike shops. Stores such as Toys R Us and Target sell a wide variety of stylish, high-quality, and affordable road bikes for less than $200. For example, the gorgeous silver Schwinn bike that I bought at Target eight years ago for around $150 still functions perfectly today. And yesterday, to reward my 8th grade graduate, I purchased a very sturdy and cool-looking men’s road bike on clearance at Toys R Us for less than $60. Yes, seriously. (Shh…don’t tell my teen. He thinks I paid a lot more money for it). The point is, unless you are just a total snob who will never buy a bicycle unless it is some top-of-the-line $700 bike from a fancy bike shop, many middle-class people can afford to buy a bicycle. And the cost of savings on gasoline alone will make the purchase worthwhile very quickly.

Graduation Bike Present

2. I Am Too Lazy to Ride a Bike

Well, at least you are honest about it. We live in a lazy (and obese) society. But before you shrug off bike riding as something for people with lots of energy, consider this: A study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that bike riding improved energy levels by 20 percent and decreased fatigue by 65 percent. Go figure – expending a little energy to ride your bike to the store actually rewards you with more energy. Not to mention that fact that leisurely bike riding ( <10mph) can burn around 300 calories per hour. And the fact that biking is easier on the joints than other forms of exercise, like running or even walking. So get off the couch, lazybones!

3. I Don’t Have the Equipment or Mechanical Skills

What equipment? All you really need is a helmet. Oh, and a bike pump. At some point, it will help to have a couple of other basic tools, like an allen wrench, some lube, and one of those plastic thingies for changing out inner tubes. As far as mechanical skills, keeping a bike maintained is easy-peasy. And no, I am not a mechanically-inclined person. The idea of doing repairs more complex than a change of batteries often sets off mini panic attacks. If I were a Sim, I’m pretty sure I would only have 3 out of 10 mechanical points. But even I can manage to replace the inner tube of a bike tire. And unless you don’t have any hands, so can you. (Although I’m not sure you should ride a bike if you don’t have hands). You do not need special sneakers or spandex biker shorts to ride a bicycle. Whichever clothes you normally wear are fine (although if you are a women who enjoys wearing short skirts, you may want to wear pants beneath your skirt. You can always take them off when you reach your destination).

4. What About My Small Children? What About Cargo?

It is now easier than ever to turn bike riding into reliable family transportation. There are many options available, from ride-on infant carriers to child tandem-bike attachments for older kids who still don’t have the hang of riding independently. When my children were very small, I spent around $100 to buy a two-seat child trailer like the one below. When my youngest son was around 1, and his sister 4 years old, I used to strap them into the trailer, and we happily cycled together to the park, the library, and the grocery store. It was safe, durable, and very convenient to use. Sure, more expensive models exist, but don’t let price deter you from involving your young children in your regular bike rides.

As for cargo, the child trailer is also a great solution for larger loads. But for normal, small trips to the grocery store, school, etc., I find that it helps to wear a backpack to carry a bag or two. You can also mount an inexpensive metal cargo rack or basket to the front or rear of your bike for additional cargo needs. 2-Child Bike Trailer

Are you convinced yet? I hope so. Biking is such a time-tested, practical way to travel around your community. It is great for your health, great for the environment, and great for your wallet, too. What more do you need to convince you that biking is a positive lifestyle choice, not only for you, but for your entire family? Go — dust off that old bike in the back of your garage and start cycling!

Grand, Great, Grande (The Canyon, That is)

Well, I can now check off “Visit the Grand Canyon” from my personal list of things to do before I die. We didn’t have much time to visit – just a few hours’ detour while on a long road trip with my kids (more on that later). But there was no way I was going to drive all the way to Arizona and not visit one of the great wonders of the natural world. First Impressions

And how was it, you ask? Well, as my kids and I finally stepped out on the crowded viewing platform and had our first glimpse of the canyon, my heart stopped. No really, I’m pretty sure that it actually stopped beating, for like, a full minute. I think I stopped breathing, too. In that astonished instant, my spirit floated away from my body and became one with the miles of colorful rock layers.

And then my teenager says, “That’s all there is? This is so overrated!”

Wham! My spirit collided with my body, and I sucked in a huge breath before gaping at my son. Who was this broken child who stood there, frowning at Nature’s Masterpiece, clearly unimpressed? What was he expecting? A Disneyland-style light show?

“It’s okay,” said my 11 year-old.

“I thought it would be a lot deeper.” My 8 year-old was frowning as he looked over the edge.

“Seriously?” I was dumbstruck. Were these my kids, whom I have been working hard to bring up with a love for the beauty of nature? Had I failed? Has our culture of instant entertainment and instant gratification finally managed to destroy an entire generation?

Five minutes later, the kids discovered the joy of throwing rocks into the canyon. And suddenly, nature was fun again. Yes, we did get a few curious stares from strangers (Though at least half of those, I suspect, were from international tourists who had rarely, if ever, seen an actual Black person before and were staring with great curiosity, and perhaps shock, at my dark skin and curly hair. I couldn’t help but imagine the excited text messages they were sending to friends back in their home countries: Guess what – we not only saw the Grand Canyon, but we saw a real Black today! Heehee…well, hopefully I provided a positive representation).

Throwing a Rock in the Grand Canyon

Anyway, after the kids discovered rock-throwing, suddenly, the 277 miles of rock layers became cool and interesting, the colors became pretty, and, according to the teenager, the canyon “totally lived up to its reputation.” After all, where else in the world could you chuck a rock, then count to ten before it hits bottom? We enjoyed the entire visit – hiking along the rim, discussing rock layers and evolution, taking family photos for strangers, and taking a bazillion photos for ourselves, too. In the end, we all agreed that our time there was far too short.

“Next time,” said my 13 year-old, “we should go camping here for a whole week, and rent bicycles to ride around, and hike down to the bottom of the canyon.”

“Yes!” My other two kids enthusiastically agreed. I breathed a sigh of relief. My kids were not broken, after all. There is still hope that this next generation can learn to love and appreciate the beauty in the world around them, even though nature does not come with a charge cord. And even in an age of instant gratification, easy entertainment, and Facebook, the wonders of nature are still the things which stay with us longest and touch us deepest. The Grand Canyon is still Grand. Yes, even for 13 year-olds.

My 3 Kids and Me

My 3 Kids and Me