What Do You Call an Aging Bicycle Boy?

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My new exercise routine involves riding my bike along the Hudson river path that runs along the West Side highway. Most mornings, after dropping Eden off at school, I go home, change into a pair of shorts and sneakers, cue up my iPhone and hop on my bike. The bike path is gorgeous, overhung with tree branches, running right along the river park, an oasis in the maelstrom of the concrete jungle.

But here’s the thing: as great as it feels to be out there—wind on my face, legs pumping, heart pounding—it’s killing my ego. Other riders are flying past me like I’m standing still. Okay, okay, I get it. I’m riding a heavy old Schwinn that used to belong to my wife and has too small a frame for me and also has the added weight of a banana seat on the back for ferrying my 9-year-old daughter around. It’s not a fast bike. And I’m not a kid anymore even though I still think of myself as one. I’m sixty. And I don’t expect to be keeping up with the guys on their ultralight racers outfitted in full biker regalia. But it’s not just them. I’m getting left in the dust by women in dresses on Citibikes and businessmen on small-wheeled folding bikes. I’m getting passed by kids on friggin’ skateboards! And it’s humiliating.

I try not to let it affect me. I remind myself that I’m doing this for my health not my ego. I’m not in a race. It’s not a contest. But still, it bothers me. Is it just that my bike is painfully slow? Or is it me? Can I really be this pathetic and feeble? I want to be the one passing people. I want to be the one flying along, feeling like I’m king of the bike paths. So, I’ve been seriously thinking about upgrading my ride. Getting a bike-path torpedo, something that’s going to move. But then I think, What if I’m still getting passed? What if it doesn’t change anything? What then? Will it make me give up this whole biking venture?

So I’m kind of in a quandary. I don’t really want to know the truth. I don’t want to know that I’m slow and old and that’s why everyone and their mother is passing me by. For the time being, I think I’ll probably just stick to my clunky old Schwinn and pretend that it’s not the carpenter that’s the problem, it’s his tools.

By Peter Alson

Peter Alson is a writer and editor. Among his published books are the memoirs Confessions of an Ivy League Bookie and Take Me to the River. He's also co-authored (with Nolan Dalla) One of a Kind, a biography of poker champion Stuey Ungar, and Atlas, the autobiography of boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas. His articles have appeared in many national magazines, including Esquire, Playboy and The New York Times. He has worked as a writer for People magazine, and as an editor for Playboy and for Hachette Publications. He has written screenplays for Paramount and various independent producers, and his TV pilot, Nicky’s Game, starring John Ventimiglia and Burt Young, appeared in the New York Television Festival and the Vail Film Festival. As a poker player he has finished in the money numerous times in the World Series of Poker and other events. He lives in New York with his wife, Alice, and their daughter, Eden.

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