Like most people, I received my first bike when I was quite young. I got it Christmas one year and I thought it was the greatest thing ever, even after I crashed it into the same rose bush two days in a row. Come on, it was around 1975 and I don’t think my dad knew what training wheels were. It had a banana seat and it was a great feeling to feel the wind in my hair, yeah…no helmets either. It seems as though I have always had a bike although I don’t remember them all. My high school years were bike-less, but hey, I had a Ford Mustang, so who needed a bike?
I took a trip to Colorado with a couple of friends when I was around 21 years and we went to Vail. We learned that that we could rent mountain bikes and ride the trails down the mountain. I had little experience with trail riding, mostly from growing up in Wichita and riding at a place we called “Boys Island” which was just a patch of trees with some trails inside of them. So of course, we rented mountain bikes and took the ski lift up the mountain. It was a blast! We had so much fun riding that I was determined to get a bike when we returned home and start riding again. That didn’t happen for some time until I was working at Emporia State University and a couple of the guys there were avid cyclists. I bought a Giant brand mountain bike from one of them and rode the trails in Emporia quite a bit.
We eventually moved to Lawrence in 2001 and I was touch and go with the Lawrence River Trail for a few years until my oldest son decided to fix my bike, which, after he was finished with it, ended up at the dump. Thanks, Ace!
I decided that I needed to build my heart muscle up after having a heart attack and open heart surgery in 2011. I bought a Raleigh Mountain Bike shortly thereafter and rode that from time to time but never really as much as I wanted. A few years ago, I made the decision to take it seriously to improve my health, so I bought a 2017 Giant Mountain Bike and I’ve been riding as much as possible ever since. In 2020 I was able to log over 1500 miles on my bikes, of which I now own three.
I say all of that to say this, my heart feels great. I don’t really like to jog but getting on the bike and riding gives me a sense of freedom. Although I can’t feel the wind in my hair anymore – not because I wear a helmet – it’s still a great feeling to just ride. There are trails all over the state of Kansas and in Missouri, within a few hours of Topeka.
We have fun with our bikes. We hit local dirt and paved trails. I’ve ridden the Landon Trail and the Shunga Trail. My sons and my grandkids rode around Lawrence before Christmas while I was wearing a Santa Claus costume. Lots of honks and waves, it was a blast and it’s a new tradition for us. We’re going to Bentonville, Arkansas, in June to ride what they claim is the Mountain Bike capitol of the world, we’ll see!
If you haven’t experienced the simple joy of riding a bike since your youth, I encourage you to get a bike and just ride. I’ve never been unhappy after a ride.
See you on the trails!
–Rob Mooney, Metro Voice sports writer