I bought my second Trek bike back in 2014, the FX 7.2. A 24-speed fitness bike, it was just what the doctor ordered. I recently found out that President Biden and I both ride an older Trek fitness bike. I know this because he fell off of his in front of reporters. And now I also know that I won’t be buying toe clips anytime soon.
Disclaimer: I’m an out-of-shape older man in my late 60s. I retired just after COVID began really spreading and had no real physical activity for two years after. Eventually, even I noticed a lack of strength and stamina and understood the saying, “Use it or lose it.” I decided to get up, get out, and get moving. In August 2021, I started walking and had my routine up to 3 miles, but that petered out after 9 trips (Hey, we had a heat wave.) Walking was boring and took a lot of time.
In March 2022, I pulled the bike out of the garage, determined to get some strength back in my legs, raise my stamina, and work on my growing midsection. The first attempt was 1.58 miles at an overall 6.5mph, just up the road and back. I knew from the outset that I had no legs. I also knew that it would take a couple of weeks just to get things moving in the right direction. I was going to make this work this time.
First up, the saddle. Mine was a brick and my butt was complaining after every ride. I swapped that out for the Bontrager Commuter “Fluid” saddle, supposedly softer than gel. My butt thanks me, but still complains after one of my longer rides.
Next up, I swapped the Hardcase Lite tires for the Bontrager Connection Hybrid tires, a cross between a knobby gravel tire and a paved road tire. A little wider than the Hardcase, a little more stability. Pump them up and they roll very well on asphalt. Let some air out, and they work well over gravel or dirt. (Or so I hear.)
We have a two-bike rack for our 2018 Ford Escape. We ordered this Escape with an option package that gave us a trailer hitch (and paddle shifters, for some reason). When my wife joins me on the trail, we use the rack. When it’s just me, I can throw the Trek in the back of the Escape, without even having to remove the front tire. Easy in, easy out.
I have a nasty habit of starting out strong but giving up much too soon. Whether it’s walking or cycling, I rarely hit ten times out with any regularity. This is different.
I’m lucky to have Chester Valley Trail in my backyard. This is 13 miles of beautifully built trail on an abandoned rail line that stretches from Exton in Chester County to King of Prussia in Montgomery County. This trail will eventually connect Downingtown to the west with the Schuylkill River Trail, going all the way into Philadelphia proper.
So far, I’ve only pedaled 5 miles eastward plus the return trip. As of this writing, I’ve been out all of 22 times for a total of over 150 miles.
I start out at the Exton County Park trailhead, just behind the Church Farm School. My usual run is three miles out to where the trail intersects with Route 401, three miles back. Every once in a while, I’ll stretch it to 4.5 miles each way (Route 29).
My first 6-mile ride was an overall 7.7 mph and almost 47 minutes.
My latest was an overall 11.4 mph and just under 32 minutes.
It took a good half-dozen trips to the trail before my legs stopped screaming. I found that my arms hurt, too, holding my weight over the handlebars. (A touch of arthritis in my right shoulder doesn’t help, that’s for sure.) The ride has become much more pleasant lately and I’m not completely drained when I get home.
It may take time for you to start enjoying the ride, too, but all I can recommend is that you stick with it. Make time, ride as often as you can. Your body will adjust. And riding on established trails is better than trying to get along with road traffic that doesn’t want you there. Check listings in your area.
NEWS: Bought a GoPro Hero9 Black and thought I’d “map” some of the Chester Valley Trail. Here, together with one of my piano solos, is the portion of the trail from Exton Park to the Route 401 crossing. (Playback settings should be 2160 or 4K.)
Chester Valley Trail map (2017)