Sawatzke: Biking isn’t quite what I remember

Clay Sawatzke
Clay Sawatzke

Just like riding a bike, you say?
I say, find a new expression.
I’m finding out the hard way that either the memory of riding a bike isn’t recalled quite as easily as that popular phrase might suggest or, that just maybe adult biking is a bit different than the driveway biking I did as a child.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t given a lot of time for these memories to come flooding back to me. I’ve been back on bicycles just twice recently, including getting on a road bike for my first time ever on Monday night.
But, isn’t that the point of the phrase? It’s not supposed to take five trips for biking to come back to me. It’s supposed to be there at the snap of my fingers.
So, why don’t I remember things like how important it is to lean back when you are going downhill toward a bump?
Or that the back brake is pretty much always a better bet than the front?
Luckily, I haven’t had to learn one of these the hard way yet. I’ve had a helpful girlfriend to push me along and show me the ins and outs of adult biking, gently reminding me that you probably don’t want to shift up when you’re climbing a big hill, and that even though it still looks super cool to be a low rider, you probably want your bike seat at the correct height before you bike a long (to me) distance.
Still, it’s a slow process. As a ten-year-old, I would go blocks with no hands. As a 25 year old, I felt comfortable enough to take my left hand off the handlebars for almost a full second on Monday night.
But I continue to learn, both simple lessons, and ones with bigger implications.
Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that biking is one of my new favorite exercises. There are some things that still have to grow on me (for example: biking on the side of the road – but I’ll get to that), but there are so many things to love about it.
It’s fantastic exercise. According to, a guy like me can burn nearly 1000 calories when biking 15 miles in one hour.
Two weeks ago, my reaction would have been: “15 miles??? Yeah, ok. Not.”
After a couple of trips on the bike? I’ve learned that you cover ground quite a bit faster than you expect. Plus it’s much easier on your body and leaves you feeling quite a bit less sore than the equivalent distance you would have to run to burn the same amount of calories.
Also, it’s a wonderful opportunity to combine exercise with enjoying nature. The ability to move quickly also provides you with the opportunity to cover a lot of ground, and see more sights. Biking opens you up to covering numerous miles of beautiful trails both here locally, and throughout the state. Just days into becoming a biker, I’ve already been researching trails I want to check out.
I’ve also learned a bit about bikers in general. Especially that they aren’t idiots for biking on the side of the road, as I sometimes like to proclaim them.
Instead, they’re athletes (like I’m so desperately striving to be once again) just looking for anyplace they can to get a good workout in. In fact, they’re being respectful of others. It would be disrespectful (I am told) for them to bike on sidewalks, where they fly by at speeds unsafe to be surrounded by walkers and joggers moving at a much slower pace.
Also, out of everyone on the roads, they’re probably paying the most attention. After all, with no protective vehicle to surround them, they have the most to lose.
In fact, it’s made me realize that as respectful of them as I try to be on the roads, there is probably always more room to slow down and scoot over, to keep them as far out of harm’s way as possible.
I know that’s what I would prefer when I’m biking. And as they say, do unto others as you wish they would do unto you.
With that, I pass on the idea to you that I’m glad my girlfriend passed on to me. Want to get back in shape? Pick up a bike and get back on it. It might not be just like you remembered.
But it might be better.