Temporary BMX park for Siclovia 2013. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Temporary BMX/skate park for Síclovía 2013. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
tom trevino headshot

This whole health club thing, well, it can be kind of weird…

We’ve essentially created these boxes for people to go move around in, because daily life has become so very sedentary for so very many of us.

And, yes, I am a part of that machine, since I’ve worked in gyms and personal training studios for a while now. But I do my best to offset ‘treadmill mentality’ by asking clients some very basic questions: What did you like to do when you were younger? What sports did you play? What activities did you engage in? And most importantly, why did you stop?

While it’s not always the case, most folks seem to light up with nostalgia, recalling the active souls they were, and the swim team they were on, or the friends they played tennis or basketball with, or the running group they use to meet up with every week. They were engaging in a pretty rich and active life without any gym membership, fitness fad, or marketing hype. Moving and movement was a consequence of the things they enjoyed, which seems to be in contrast to the practice of the day, wherein we obsessively count steps, and post how many calories we burned during our morning workout.

Photo by Tom Trevino
Photo by Tom Trevino

So what the heck happened? When did we lose that magic? When did we stop having fun? And, can we somehow manage to get it back?

Maybe Bike Month will help. Because I don’t know about you, but riding my bike was fun, and pretty much the only activity I engaged in as a kid (even if that did mean riding to the closest Stop-N-Go for a Big Red and a Snickers).

Trouble is, once I got involved in cycling and triathlons, that all changed. Bikes became specialized machines for speed, offering little in the way of comfort and practically. My bike as a kid was primary a means of transportation and adventure. But to ride my race bike, I had to wear special shoes that clicked into matching pedals. There seemed to be no middle ground between being a punk on a BMX bike, or a geek on a tri bike. At least there didn’t seem to be way back when.

Temporary BMX park for Siclovia 2013. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Temporary BMX park for Siclovia 2013. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Fortunately, our bike culture has grown, and it’s not uncommon to see a diverse cross section of folks rolling through our city – some in spandex, and some not. We have a small, but growing, socially acceptable commuter class that was missing when I was younger. We have tons of bike paths, a bike share program, and incredibly successful Síclovía events twice a year that everyone seems to come out and enjoy. But, what happens to all those folks the other 363 days of the year?

If you’re not one of those folks already actively riding in the community, then as part of Bike Month, I’m hoping you consider this modest proposal: Before the month is over, get out and ride.

At least once, but more if you want. Doesn’t matter if you cruise around the neighborhood park with the family, use it for errands, or to get to work, or as a substitute for what would otherwise be an indoor workout. Just get out there once and see if you don’t have just a little bit of fun.

Pretend it’s Siclovia. Pretend you’re a kid again. And just go out and play.

What’s that you say? You want to ride again, but your bike has been sitting around the garage for months, and you’re not sure if it’s road worthy? Just follow this handy checklist and we’ll get you back on the road in no time…

If you have a standard road bike, chances are it looks something like this:

road bike tom trevino
Photo(s) by Tom Trevino.

If it’s been sitting in storage awhile, it’s probably covered in dust and much more filthy. So, with a damp cloth, wipe it down and give it a once over, keeping your eyes peeled for anything that looks damaged, frayed (cables), or just plain busted. Pay particular attention to the tires for any cracks, holes, or shredding. If you notice any of that, best to replace them and be safe rather than sorry.

Once you’re sure your tires are solid and that the tubes hold air without issue, check out the brakes, brake pads and brake cables. Make sure everything is looking good here and working properly. Most brakes will have a quick barrel adjuster that you can turn to ‘tighten’ or ‘loosen’ the feel of the brakes. The adjuster looks like this:

Brake adjustment, aka brake barrel. Photo by tom trevino
Brake adjustment, aka brake barrel.

Once you have your tires and brakes in order, go around the rest of the bike and make sure all the other bolts are secure (remember: righty tighty, lefty loosey). A compact bike tool comes in handy here, and it’s not a bad idea to carry one with you, should you ever need to adjust something on the fly.

Universal bike tool.
Universal bike tool.

Since you have your tools out, you might as well double check and adjust your seat height (most people keep the seat too low, preventing proper leg extension). Set your seat height by loosening the seatpost clamp and adjusting the height of the seat post. You’re looking for about ninety percent extension at the bottom of the pedal stroke, but err on the side of comfort if your goal is to just cruise around.

And don’t forget that you can also adjust how far forward and backward the seat rests on the seat post, and the angle of the seat as well, by loosening the bolt under the seat, moving the seat into place, and re-tightening. Getting this adjustment right can make a huge difference in your general comfort. Think neutral and flat for starters, and adjust as necessary from there.

Adjusting the height (left) and tilt (right) of a bike seat.
Adjusting the height (left) and tilt (right) of a bike seat.

Finally, if you own a bike with special (clipless) pedals, head down to your local bike shop, hand over a few dollars, and pick up some platform pedals.

Platform pedals. Walk like human again.
Platform pedals. Walk like human again.

This one little change transforms your race bike into an urban cruiser, and makes it versatile enough for quick trips to the grocery store or coffee shop, while restoring your ability to actually walk around like a human being. It will be the best $25 you ever spent, and give a whole new dimension to how and when you ride.

Tom Trevino is a writer, artist and wellness coach based out of San Antonio. His column, “The Feed,” addresses health and fitness issues and dispense practical advice for San Antonians attempting to wade through the often-confusing diet and fitness world. He holds a B.A. from the University of Texas, with training and certification from the Cooper Institute. He has a fondness for dogs, the New York Times, and anything on two wheels. When he’s not writing, training, or cooking, you can find him wandering the aisles of Central Market.

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