Michael Ellis: The Joy of Biking

2 min

The shutdown has sparked a renaissance of bike riding. For many people like Michael Ellis, the joy of biking goes back to childhood.

I can almost remember every bike I’ve owned since I was a kid. But my favorite one by far was my Schwinn deluxe stingray bike. It was 1964, I was 13 years old and this new design arrived at my local bike store in remote eastern Tennessee. Kids in California where else? had cobbled together a bike with elevated handlebars and a cool looking elongated “banana” seat. The whole package resembled a chopper. Think "Easy Rider."

It was immediately popular and Schwinn replicated the bike and soon was manufacturing thousands of them. It was the closest thing I could get to a motorcycle. And I wanted one badly. It cost $65 a fortune. I had a paper route, I babysat and I mowed lawns. It took me quite a while and many desired RC Colas and Moon Pies had to wait. I bought a nice metallic blue one with fancy chrome fenders, front and back, and a padded seat. I had to pay an extra 10 bucks for that deluxe model.

I already understood the joys of bike riding. Even though I lived in a hilly place I was able to transport myself surprisingly great distances from my home. Freedom to roam, far from parents! The Exploratorium website states that the bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation ever developed. It takes a lot less calories to go a certain distance than even walking.

I am still an avid biker and I happen to live on the same block as a bike store. During this crisis this shop has had a boom in bike sales and repairs. People are dragging those bikes out of storage for mending and buying new ones. The driving force is the need for exercise and it is the best way for some folks to easily get to park trailheads. On Mother’s Day I had never seen so many people, especially families, biking in my local state park.

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We are all searching for some good to come out of this COVID mess. And perhaps this increased interest will bring about more dedicated bike lanes, lower urban and suburban pollution and result in better health and less obesity in the population. We can only hope.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Michael Ellis is a naturalist living in Santa Rosa.