Bike riding is great exercise - but I guess everyone knows that.
So why doesn't everyone ride?
Huge numbers of us do.
In some locations, bike riding is so popular that there's serious competition for road space. For example, there's a beautiful stretch of highway between Boulder, Colorado and Lyons, Colorado - a two lane paved road running right along the base of the foothills.
Bikers sometimes risk serious injury by riding two or more abreast - and there's often little or no shoulder to accomodate a single biker, let alone two or more side by side.
Last year Colorado passed a law requiring motorists to come no closer to bicyclists than 5 feet.
The new law may have provided some additional safety for riders, but 5 feet doesn't seem like much when cars are whizzing by at high speeds.
Personally I prefer to ride on quiet streets, with little or no traffic.
This is a very relaxing situation with no stress. Yet, the exercise value is optimal.
The peaceful surroundings in which you can hear your own breathing, along with birds singing, and maybe a few dogs barking is much more conducive to personal safety and connecting to the crisp, fresh air, the smells and sounds of the early morning than trying to ride in competition with motorists, than trying to ride on a busy main thoroughfare.
One of the great things about getting older is that I have no need to assert my competitive spirit while sitting defenseless on a bicycle seat.
Watching the USA Pro Cycling Challenge that was held here in Colorado this last August was very inspiring.
Riding up and down mountain passes at altitudes of 7 or 8 thousand feet or more demands the highest levels of athleticism and physical fitness.
All public traffic on the roads was shut down during the race, but clearly the risks to the riders were still very stressful.
After the few situations where I've been able to coax my bike all the way up to 20 miles per hour (downhill, of course), I can't imagine being on a bicycle flying downhill in excess of 60 mph. And it's incredible that these athletes can achieve speeds of 20-30 miles per hour going up steep grades.
Fortunately it's not necessary to achieve such levels of power and exertion in order to benefit greatly from bike riding.
Joyce and I include bike riding as part of our regular exercise routine.
We usually manage to ride about 5 miles 3 times a week - and we usually take our ride fairly early in the day.
Our riding loop includes a few gentle upslopes and downhill stretches, but most of it is relatively flat. It's all on paved city streets where there is very little traffic.
Over the years we've been on a few recreational longer rides with our daughter and her family.
Our son-in-law is a very strong mountain biker, and has the scars to prove it. He also has great stamina along with excellent cardio-pulmonary health. He's a prime example of what riding at altitude can do for you.
The ability to ride where you want to ride is a fantastic gift - one that's developed over a lifetime.
Most of us begin our bike riding experiences as children. Now, it's happening at a very early age.
One little boy who lives nearby began riding shortly after he learned to walk. He never did use training wheels.
Do you remember what a thrill it was to jump on your bike as a child, and go zipping down a shady lane lined with huge trees on both sides? It felt like you were doing at least 50 miles per hour - the wind rushing through your hair, and even the bugs occasionally smacking you in the face.
What great freedom - and what a sense of excitement.
If you haven't yet resumed your bike riding as an adult, you don't know what you're missing.
The same sense of freedom and excitement, along with lots of exhilaration. It's just unbeatable.
If you've spent the last decade or two in a more or less sedentary way of life with little or no exercise, don't just dust off the old bike and start riding. You might be able to ride around the block with no problem, but trying to stretch it into several miles could create lots of serious problems.
Start with a series of short rides - maybe a couple of trips around the block with a day or two in between.
Meanwhile, start other kinds of regular exercises, including work with light weights for arms, legs, and torso.
If you haven't been walking, start walking every day - short walks at first, but gradually lengthening your time walking.
I'm not attempting to provide a detailed regimen here. It's been rather easy for us, since we've been into regular exercise for several decades. Even so, if we were to decide to take some longer bicycle rides, we would certainly prepare for them by gradually lengthening our rides.
Our nutrition and hydration habits have been much better than average, and we are not overweight.
No matter, though, if you've become a bit overweight and out of shape.
Just dust off the bike, fix the tires and give it a tune up. Now there are shops in every community where they're glad to do it for you at a very reasonable price.
Or, they're happy to sell you a new bike.
A new bicycle can provide a lot of motivation to prepare yourself for hours of relaxing, highly beneficial bike riding which will extend you life and add great vitality.
The preparation itself is also highly beneficial.
Sometimes being overweight stops anyone from attempting something new - even if the new activity is really an old activity greatly enjoyed as a child and teenager.
Bike riding is so enjoyable and the rewards so great that you might be inspired now to shed the extra pounds through diet change and simple exercise such as walking.
Check out the nutritional ideas presented elsewhere on this site. Use the urge to be involved in bike riding as a great motivator for a great change of lifestyle.