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Bicycle commute right in my wheelhouse
By John Breneman
Finally rode my bike to work on Thursday just a
man and his trusty iron steed.
We're a couple of old-timers, he and I. Combined age: 84.
He's about 33, so that makes me what, 29ish? And though
I am pretty sure we weren't the oldest man-cycle combo to
saddle up for Bike to Work Week, my vintage Peugeot mountain
bike could've been a contender for creakiest contraption
on the mean streets of Portsmouth and Newington that day.
least the creaks, rasps and groans emanating mostly from
the crank case drowned out the softer sound of my own knees
grinding (though fortunately not yet "bone on bone"
as my mom is quick to inquire).
Ever since I ditched my Boston commute to join what is
pound-for-pound one of the finest media organizations in
the entire Fourth Estate, I've been periodically flapping
my gums about riding my bike to work ... one of these days.
Experts say cutting the distance one must travel to "bring
home the bacon" has a direct therapeutic impact on
one's mental and physical well-being, with additional benefits
for the psyche, super ego and soul.
The same is true of bicycling. Good for the heart and lungs,
digestion, complexion, muscle tone and, of course, the pancreas.
And it significantly reduces the risk of a range of maladies
including but not limited to rickets, shingles and premature
withering. (Sadly, reports of a more robust and satisfying
sex life remain unconfirmed.)
When I worked in Boston, a bicycle commute just didn't
seem feasible. Sure, I could've rolled down I-95 to 128,
jumped on I-93 south, zipped across the Zakim Bridge and
made it to the newsroom just in time for ...; the end of
But I was eager to escape the Beantown rat race. (Don't
get me started on Massachusetts driving. Horns and hand
gestures, angry faces on blithering idiots, close calls
with the clueless. Ah, those weren't the days ...)
Now, from my humble homestead in downtown Portsmouth, the
drive to my post at Pease International Tradeport is a mere
8 to 10 minutes, meaning there are few excuses not to make
the commute by cycle.
My discovery that this would be Bike/Walk to Work Week
set in motion a date with two-wheeled destiny a knobby-tired,
no-petroleum day of car-free karma.
So Thursday was the big day ... to make my carbon footprint
small. Part of the thrill of the round-trip from Market
Square to Pease and back is the presence of a very special
pedestrian bridge right off Woodbury Avenue that allows
walkers and two-wheelers to safely traverse the highway
right at the traffic circle.
The bridge was erected around 1999, back when money could
still be spent for the public good long before a
bunch of powerful jerks decided that investments in stupid
stuff like education and human health was anti-American.
Thanks to this awesome little bridge (find details on it
and other local cycling information at seacoastbikes.org)
we two-wheeled types can steer clear of the highway.
Of course, I was hoping to see some wildlife. I've spotted
deer and turkeys at Pease while driving my horseless carriage.
So, surely freed from the confines of my 2006 Honda
Metal Box I would spy a couple flocks of federally
protected bald eagles, maybe a beaver or a porcupine. This
is a rich habitat for birds but, truth be told, I probably
wouldn't know an upland sandpiper from a pied-billed grebe.
I took it casual and made it to work in about 22 minutes.
Felt super all day long and I highly recommend the experience
For those who'd like to try it but fear you may have forgotten
how to ride a bike, it is, as the saying goes, "like
riding a bike."
First, use a damp cloth to wipe most of the cobwebs from
your vehicle. Next, pray that the tires have enough air.
(They won't, so add some. Don't worry about mixing 1994
air with 2013 air. And if you don't have any air at your
house, you can usually buy some for 50 cents at a gas station.)
Third, grasp your "handlebars" and assume the
position. Once aboard the velocipede shove off, old
sport. Place your feet on the "pedals" and begin
moving them in a circular-type motion.
This should cause the bicycle to begin moving. Do not panic.
Instead calmly utilize the handlebars to steer yourself
in the desired direction, harnessing your innate sense of
balance to avoid tumbling onto the pavement and cracking
open your face and/or skull.
Contrary to the example set by cycling legend Lance Armstrong,
it is not necessary to gobble down fistfuls of steroids
or to siphon off your own blood and replace it with higher-octane
For additional tips on bicycling, check out my new worst-sellers
"Road Rash: Friend or Foe" and "Does This
Spandex Make My Butt Look Ridiculous?"
(Bonus points for anyone who rides my childhood dream bike
a green Schwinn Sting-Ray with a banana seat, slick
rear tire and five-speed stick!)
On the ride home, I opted for a quicker pace and made it
back to Market Square in just 15 minutes. Enhancing my exhilaration,
just as I was leaving Pease, a rambunctious jackrabbit bounded
across my path, just feet from my front tire. (Wildlife
Now I'm not the best spokesman for the spoke-wheeled commute
not looking to proselytize the pedal-powered experience.
But if biking to work sounds like fun, my advice is do it.
And let neither crunchy knees nor creaky derailleurs derail
John Breneman, a Herald copy editor and columnist, can
be reached at email@example.com (Twitter: @MrBreneman).
Here's the link to my Sunday
column at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald.
Posted on May 21, 2013 3:59 PM
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