Accidentally Car-free: progress on the cycling front, but a brief pause in the project

a Raleigh bicycle leaning againt a carMy road bike before the maintenance (Photo: Larry Felton Johnson)

[This is an installment in the series “Accidentally car-free” about getting around Cobb County without the use of a car.  To see a list of the entire series visit this link.  To see how this project began, read the first article in the series by following this link.]

It’s good news and bad for the Accidentally Car-free project.

On the upside I put my Raleigh road bike in the shop for maintenance and got it back a few days ago. I chose Comet Trail Cycles for the shop work. I like the folks there, and the Silver Comet Trail proximity gave me a chance to test out both the bike and my rusty skills on flat conditions and without interacting with automotive traffic too soon.

I’d show you a photo of the bike with my new snazzy red bar tape, but I’m typing this from a hospital room, which brings me to the downside of what’s going on with the project.

My brother-in-law, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, had a seizure and wound up being transported from the memory care unit where he lives in Smyrna to Wellstar Kennestone.

At the beginning of the Accidentally Car-free project I decided on a short list of exceptions to my commitment to avoid the use of a car, and family medical emergency was at the top of the list. So four times since his hospitalization I’ve started my car, and driven up here to the hospital. The old Honda is behaving itself in the cooler weather.

As soon as my brother-in-law is out of the hospital, and back in stable condition, I’ll map out my destinations and park the car long-term again.

So let me get back to the upside.

The work I had done on the bike ran about $200, and included the tune-up, new tubes and tires, replacing one spoke, and rewrapping the bars.

Since I haven’t ridden in over five years, I spent the first ten minutes riding around in circles in the parking lot making sure I could snap into and release the clipless binders. I don’t want to realize in traffic at an intersection that I can’t get out of the pedals, and fall over sideways. I actually did that once after badly adjusting a set of SPD clipless pedals when I first starting using them. It was quite a show I put on for the automobiles lined up behind me.

The binders were adjusted well and mounting and disengaging came back to me pretty quickly. I was also happy that my ability to swing my legs over the bars to mount the bike was still with me. I’m a little slower than I used to be, but the motion was smooth and got my legs straddling the top tube, ready to mount the pedals.

Next I wanted to make sure I could turn my head and look behind me for changing lanes in traffic. That was the most unpleasant aspect of my five year absence from cycling. At one time I could turn by head so far I looked like Linda Blair from the exorcist.

At this point I can turn far enough to see behind me, but it’s painful. I think some stretching exercises are in my future.

After practicing in the parking lot for a bit, I hit the Silver Comet Trail.

At first I toddled along at about 10 to 12 mph to refamiliarize myself with hand positions, the gears, and the brakes. Then on a stretch west of Floyd Road with few other people, I went into a crouch and opened up for a few hundred yards.

I doubt I’ll reach the average speeds of my younger days, but once I start transportational and utility road cycling, I think I’ll be able to perform well enough to get the job done.

It might be a few days until by brother-in-law is discharged from the hospital, but my first steps in using the bike will be a shopping trip. I might go Oakdale Road -> Veterans’ Memorial Highway to the Publix.

Or I might go to the Kroger on South Atlanta Road. There are two reasonable routes to get there. One is Oakdale Road -> Highlands Parkway -> South Cobb Drive -> Church Street -> North Church Lane. The other is Oakdale Road -> Dickerson Drive -> Riverview Road -> Maner Road -> Plant Atkinson Road -> North Church Lane. The first route would be faster, but the second would have less traffic.

My next installment in this series will describe how that goes.

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