21 April

Just Do It: My New Bike Is Here

by Jon Katz

I don’t have to control my thoughts, I just have to stop letting them control me, as I have learned over time to do.” – Jon Katz

The last straw for me was a series of messages from my readers suggesting that I buy a three-wheeler bike made for children, the impaired, and older people.

“Have you considered just getting a three-wheeler?” one man asked me yesterday in a blog post. I could tell he was getting impatient with the drama not shrouding my decision to ride a bicycle last November.

But he misunderstood me, as often happens when people give advice that was not asked for.

I have nothing against three-wheelers or the people who need them or choose to use them.

They make perfect sense for anybody who feels more comfortable on them than a two-wheel bike for any reason – and there are many good reasons.

But I don’t need one or want one or prefer one, so no, I said, I haven’t considered getting a three-wheeler. It’s just not me.

I was in therapy on and off for 30 years, mostly for what was diagnosed as chronic and generalized anxiety.

I learned a lot in those years, but one of the most important was not running away from my fear but acknowledging it, accepting it, and confronting it. I’ve also learned to project, to act the way I want to feel.

This is up to me. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that all of life is an experiment, the more experiments the better.

That has worked; I have little fear these days and no panic, at least almost no panic (I had some on the e-bike). My doctors and friends, and my spouse have all confirmed that there is no physical reason for me to be afraid of a two-wheel bike, which I used to ride all the time.

But anxiety is mysterious at times; it’s hard to understand where it comes from or why, and the bike thing has me sick of myself. I’ve spent enough time in my life studying the mysterious inner works me. I’m just not that interesting.

Time to move forward with life and take my chances. When I sit on this bike, I am still terrified. But I can see past it. Fear, I learned, is geography, a space to cross. You just have to hang in there and walk through it.

I can assure you that one day soon I will be posting a photograph of me writing my new bike on a country road. And I know the road.

I know a part of this has to do with aging and the vulnerability it can bring. I had two heart procedures last year and had my prostate rearranged as well.

Each procedure has made my life better and healthier, but they have also made me feel more vulnerable. I need to work through that as well, and I will

But there is something else: an affirming, empowering resolve: I feel it deep down below my heart,  know I can do this, so I tell myself just do it and stop thinking about it.

I see how stiff and wary I am when I get on a bike. Time to get to another level – calm, slow and confident. I don’t have to control my thoughts, I just have to stop letting them control me, as I have learned to do.

I decided enough is enough. I got in the car and drove to Saratoga Trek to meet with my new and valued friend Caleb, who has become, along with my therapist, my bicycle guru, counselor, a savior.

Caleb is one of those rare people of any age, an empath who loves to sell bikes and cares deeply about the people who ride them what he considers a sport and a passion.

His confidence and passion are contagious. He also took the time to understand me, know me, and even listen to me,  which I deeply appreciate.

He is a very special human.

He is also about 200 pounds and 50 years younger than I am, but no matter, he sees right through my neuroses and pretensions. He has no doubt I can ride this bike.

After watching me, he confirmed my suspicions that there is absolutely no reason why I can’t ride a bicycle that isn’t charged up for space travel.

So I bought another bike, another Trek, eight gears, no computer parts or electronics. He also sold me back all the accessories I had purchased for the e-book at a reduced price.

It costs about a sixth of what the e-bike cost. We got it into my car; I brought it home; Maria came out to stare at it, offering at one point to take over the bike if it didn’t work out for me for any reason.

What I decided was that it’s time to stop gazing at my navel and do it, as the sneaker ad says. It’s really up to me, and I understand there are fear and shame and other old issues involved, but there comes the point where you have to decide to do it if it’s something you want to do.

The bed wetter in me says be careful, the old man says nuts to that. One day, the two of us shall meet.

This is something I want to do. There are beautiful flat and quiet country roads around here that I would love to ride on, especially on beautiful Spring and Summer days.

I love going to the gym now; I overcame that with a little bit of help, now onto this. Between the gym and some country road bicycling, I can love my heart and take care of my body. I’m not ready to leave the world yet; I love my blog, my photos, and having sex once more.

One day soon, I hope to love my bike as much as I love Zinnia and my car.

We have rain and cold the next couple of days, so it might be a while before taking my first real ride. I will keep you posted. I will take my time. Rushing is not smart.

Thanks to those many good people who write to tell me they are much older than I am and ride their bikes every day.

Wayne Dyer wrote that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. I think that can be profound. As I see this business of riding a bike differently, it will just be different. I’ve learned that lesson over and over.

We can’t always meet one another, but we can inspire each other.

In our confused world, there are many people eager and willing to tell you what to do and what you can’t do. But there are many more encouraging you will do what you and need to do, what you can do as well as what you can’t do..

Many of you had done that for me when I needed it. I guess this was one of those times, thanks. But when all is said and done, it’s up to me to imagine what I want and then go after it.

20 Comments

  1. My husband’s 82 yr old cousin had a triple heart bypass and after surgery started riding his bike. He rode for miles and loved it. At one point he raced after a robber and brought him down. Enjoy your bike Jon.

  2. Great news! You’ll do great with this. Just think how much stronger and healthier you are now, than you were last year when you had issues with the e-bike (which is VERY heavy and can be intimidating. I know – I have one.) This pretty red bike looks perfect for a quick run up to Moise’s place and enjoying the beautiful landscape around you.

  3. My yard happens to back up to a bike trail. I see many many people of all ages and all shapes and sizes riding their bikes every day. They all look happy too. I started riding when I was 63. Five years later I still enjoy it. Have fun!!!!

  4. As a life long bike rider, I bit my tongue when you bought the e-bike. I kept thinking to myself, he just needs a simple lightweight bike where his feet can easily touch the ground. So happy for you! Congratulations and happy trails to you!

  5. I’m only speaking from my experience, but I’ve learned to respect my deepest fears. Though my last name has Fear in it, I’m generally a very brave woman. but sometimes I get a deep anxiety around activities that I used to breeze through. I used to ride horses, everyday, all day. after a severe accident in my late 40’s, I had a twist in my gut whenever I attempted to ride. the old saying, “Just get back on” wasn’t working anymore. I learned to respect that and no longer torture my horses with my fear and desire to ride again. after a lot of thought, I realized that the desire to ride was coming from outside myself, the look folks gave me when I said I didn’t ride anymore and having to explain why I still kept horses but didn’t ride. I’ve learned to listen to that deep fear and understand that I didn’t want to end up in the hospital and at 64, I break much easier than I did when younger. Guess long story short, there’s something to be said to overcoming your fear of bike riding, but at the same time, listen to your body and those fears maybe a protection device to keep you from banging yourself up. Our physical bodies have an intelligence that our brains try to override.

    1. It’s a complex thing, in our fearful, warnings-laced culture. We sell the idea that we can have perfect lives without problems or anticipate every danger. It really isn’t all that big a deal. I’ll ride and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll stop. I really don’t think there’s too much danger involved if I stay off of busy roads..

  6. Good for you!. You’ve braver than I am.
    Of course, you’re doing gears. I learned on a one-speed, brakes in the back wheels bike and that’s what I want now. Luckily, they are still made.
    When I need to stop, I reverse my legs. Legs, not hands, respond. Sigh…
    Muscle memory can be a pain.
    By the way, my bike-riding brother always insists on carrying a patch kit for flat tires. Just a thought.
    Enjoy!

  7. Main thing, be it a three wheel, electric, no gear, minimal gear, is you are getting exercise, fresh air, and stimulus, all good and essential to everyday life👍🏽👍🏽

  8. I hope you can ride that bike- it looks perfect for you. Simple and light will be good. Have you got any bike paths near you to ride so you won’t have to deal with cars? Rail trails or the like? That might be a great place to start. I’ve been an avid biker all my life. I hope to never give it up. I wish you the best with it and hope to hear some good experiences for you.

  9. Are there any cycling clubs or groups where trained Guides take out groups of riders?

    Just a thought as being in a group with people of a similar ability helps a lot.

  10. If it was purple you might have had a struggle on your hands😂
    Red, purple, turquoise – all majestic and strong colors. It makes a strong statement of how determined you are! Enjoy!!!!

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