Visiting Elmwood Park and A Visit From A Friend…

Elmwood Park Window Display

Driving into the City for Luncheon

We drove a portion of yesterday’s route to pick up some information about a web development firm that I saw in passing. It is near the Rose Hill Cemetery that we entered yesterday. And after getting the information we decided to grab a bite to eat from Native Foods Cafe on Belmont.

Then we drove to the Lakefront Trail parking lot on Recreation Drive and sat eating the food and listening to the Chicago Bears lose another game. At least the food was delightful.

The passersby are showing the effects of the falling temperatures. Folks are dressing for cooler weather. Bobby’s Bike Rental is having a sale of this years bikes. The proprietor rolled out this giant cruiser bike with what had to be 30-inch wheels! It had long and high cow horn handlebars and a neat leather saddle with springs.

Driving Home

On the way home we passed through Elmwood Park and noticed a very interesting set of show displays. Above the storefronts you could see the storm clouds that have settled into the area for the past couple of days out over the Lake Michigan area. I grabbed a few shots.

I would love to come back to the town and really capture its essence. It is a bit on the kitschy side yet somehow attractive.

Catching Up With A Friend

I’ve known Mike Tenzinger for almost 20 years. He was one of the first riders whose acquaintance I made in the Elmhurst Bicycle Club. Mike is somewhere near 80 years old now and has had a hip replacement. We used to joke that once he could no longer ride an upright bike he would at long last consider a recumbent.

That day had come. But I realized while listening to him that a hip replacement is not as compatible with recumbent riding as one might imagine. In fact I would guess the opposite is true. Folks with bad knees, knee replacements, bad hips or hip replacements are not likely to find a recumbent bike user-friendly. Why?

It’s Raining Cold Hard Facts Up In Here

Like the Sears commercial says conventional wisdom is often wrong.

If you have ever ridden alongside a recumbent rider on a long hard fast-paced ride and he or she kept up with the group (despite their slowness on hills) it is probably true that they are stronger riders than you or the other upright riders. I know that does not often seem possible, but riding a recumbent is hard work.

You cannot climb while standing on the pedals so you have to downshift. And that immediately results in a slower pace uphill. In fact every little incline seems to be a cause for added effort for a recumbent rider. Many times the upright riders don’t even realize that an incline is encountered. But the recumbent rider knows.

There is the added benefit of speed on downhills but that seldom lasts for very long. Overall if you ride a recumbent you need to be stronger than your upright counterparts just to stay even with them. If you are not you will most certainly go into your redline area trying to stay with them. This will mean that you would be toast for the next day’s riding. So you end up (if you are smart) choosing to ride a level down just to avoid exhaustion.

The more reasonable approach is simply to ride with other recumbent riders of like ability. That way you won’t end up embarrassing yourself or expending more energy that you would care to. And as if all of this were not enough there is the issue of joint damage.

Knees take a beating on a recumbent. If you have even a whiff of knee joint damage the recumbent will flush out that imperfection in short order. And if you have weak and deteriorating hips they will cause your knees to be improperly aligned and the closed position of a recumbent will offer little help in keeping your joints pain free.

In short you need to start riding a recumbent early in life in order to avoid trying to learn on one at the age of 80 years. And of course there is the issue of balance.

The rapidest growing segment of the recumbent world is that of the recumbent tricycle. Why? The bikes are hard to balance even for younger riders. For anyone without wonderful balance you need to consider this when approaching a recumbent purchase.

I would recommend a Long Wheelbase (LWB) recumbent like an Easy Racers Tour Easy. It sits low and allows you to plant both feet flat while at a stop. That makes it great for “bailing” when you begin to feel that you are falling.

High bottom bracket bikes present a challenge to older riders on several levels. They require a fair amount of body flexibility just to assume the riding position. But on the other hand getting your feet down and up can take a toll on the abdominal region of an older person, especially if you are riding in city traffic where there is likely to be plenty of frequent stopping and restarting.

So Why Keep Riding A Recumbent?

Comfort. The bike is simply more enjoyable that one might imagine provided you find one that fits your body type. You can ride it all day long and not experience discomfort and pain, provided you choose a sensible riding pace and mind your form. Downshifting on climbs helps immensely to avoid knee damage.

But if you are disposed to thinking “outside the box” you could surmount the vagaries of the recumbent experience by choosing to mount an electric assist motor. This makes it possible to climb within your comfort level and also keep you chugging along when the route is hilly. Lots of middle-aged riders have gone this route. They swallow their pride and let their need to ride be the over-riding emotion that guides them.

In the meantime if you are interested in a recumbent think of it this way. Contact lenses offer a superior quality of vision correction that eyeglasses. But this comes with a certain amount of fussiness and trouble. If you value nearly perfect vision then go with the contacts. If you are fine with a pair of glasses then so be it.

I have decided that the quality of the ride is for me the final arbiter of my choices. I simply cannot express the joy I derive when sitting astride my Easy Racers bicycle. I realize that I am slower on it that I might be on an upright, especially on hilly rides. Yet I value the ride enough to stick with it.