Biking at midlife: crazy outfits optional


My husband has become a biker. Not a leather-clad Harley Davidson riding biker — the other kind. I’m really happy for him, truly I am, but his transformation comes with some baggage.

For years we’ve been watching our friends, male friends, get into biking. Not to stereotype, but it seems to be a mid-life thing. We’ve enjoyed listening to their bike chatter with a sense of smug detachment. Who knew there was so much to talk about? There’s bike technology, bike gear, bike routes, elevation gains, mileage conquered, horror stories, injuries, epic highs and lows. Truly, before I alienate the amazing bike riding men in my universe, I really love hearing about biking.

It’s just not my thing. And, as it were, it wasn’t my husband’s thing either. We’d soak up the stories and boyish excitement of our friends’ stories while shooting each other knowing glances that said, “We’re runners, not bikers. We’ll never go there.”

And, I have to tell you, although I will talk about the outfits in a moment, I do not think bike riding is for sissies. On the contrary, listening to my friends talk about their run-ins with rabid drivers, King County rumble strips, raccoons, gravel, potholes and senile old ladies on rainy days (yes, someone got rear-ended at the four-way stop right in front of Sound Food) — all of it has left me completely freaked out about riding a bike.

Then there are the hills. Vashon specializes in hills. This is not some Burke Gilman joyride at sea level. This is home to the Passport 2 Pain, for goodness sakes. What started as a friendly fundraiser for the Vashon Island Rowing Club has become a rite of passage for all of the bike crazies in the Pacific Northwest. Why else would you pay to ride 80 miles and 10,000 vertical feet in a day? Yes, I know, they get their money back, but we all know it’s really uncool to collect the refund.

And now we’ve come to the outfits. Dave and I used to have so much fun giggling about the Tour de France-esque outfits that “biking people” seem to have to wear.  I mean, I run (okay, jog), but do I dress like Jackie Joyner-Kersee? A huge percentage of bikers wear tight tops emblazoned with logos, shrunken hot pants and weird shoes that make men clip clop around as though in stilettos.

I just placed two of those tight racing shirts with the funny pockets into the washing machine.

About four months ago, my husband Dave came home and said that his downtown athletic club went out of business.

“I’m thinking of commuting to work by bike,” he said. Two days later he was up at Spider’s Ski & Sports getting outfitted with a loaner; two days after that he was in, full Monty: road bike, convertible pedals, bike shoes, helmet, nubby tires for off-road and fenders for foul weather.

The entire family embraced his new lifestyle. Even our Rotary exchange student from Taiwan got in on the action reporting to Dave his arrival time each day. We all ran outside screaming the day he beat his best time by 5 minutes!

“You’re not going to wear those crazy outfits, are you?” I snuck the question in as we sipped wine and waited for the barbecue to heat up.

“No need,” he said.

A couple of weekends ago he went off to ride his first bike event, a 50-mile fundraising ride around Lake Washington. They gave him one of those fancy shirts to wear and another one for completing the race. He loved the experience so much that he’s going to ride the 150-mile route next year.

“Did the shirt make a difference?” I just had to ask. “The pockets are really handy,” he confessed. I caught his eye and we both broke out laughing.

“You’d look pretty cute in those little bike shorts,” I added.

“We’ll see,” he replied.

My how the tables have turned.

— Mary Kay Rauma is a mother of two, principal at Rauma Associates and not a biker … yet.

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