bike path Herb

Dewey Compton reaches end of the Kern River bike path at Enos Lane and turns around to continue his morning ride. More and more people have embraced bike riding as a way to relax and exercise.

John called. John was excited. John had bought a bike.

John is my 92-year-old father-in-law. Ninety-two seems old until you realize Bena, John’s mom, lived to 103. John’s just getting going and, if anything, he’s at the top of his age division.

Part of getting going was getting a bike. John told me he had gotten fat. I wasn’t about to argue with him, even if I didn’t agree with him. Needling your father-in-law is a national sport rivaled only by doing the same with your son-in-law.

“I haven’t been able to walk much,” he said.

I can see that and even if I couldn’t, which I can’t, I’m not in the business of making you feel better by insisting you haven’t. That would be violating our pact stipulating that neither one of us will do or say anything to improve the other person’s lie.

“I’m thinking about getting a bike,” he said. “There is a guy in the neighborhood who has one with a basket on the back. He rides it to Vons, buys groceries and then pedals home.”

I know bike envy when I hear it. I recognize bike lust when I see it. A guy in his neighborhood had a bike and he wanted one too.

“One” referred to a three-wheeler. A tricycle for adults but I wasn’t going to say that because one day I may need one, and if I said it, that day would probably be today rather than tomorrow.

No one wants to fall after about 40. Three-wheelers are stable. Not even a Kansas tornado or an Arvin dust storm could flip one.

My mom has one. They’re slow but slow in a good way as in watching-the-world-go-by slow. Three-wheelers are also exercise. Exercise is good, even for an irascible 92-year-old.

However, bikes are hard to get right now. Mountain bikes, road bikes, travel bikes, recumbents. COVID has lit the exercise fire and nothing is burning hotter than bikes.

John got lucky. Action Sports had a couple and manager Sam Ames set him up. Sam probably enjoyed the sparring that customers with tons of character sometimes bring to the retail experience.

“I bought a bike,” John said in his message. “It’s blue. They're going to deliver it this afternoon.”

They did and John was delighted. John sounded like a kid. Whether you’re 92 or 5 like his great-grandson Andrew is. A bike is freedom, fun and an adventure in the making.

A few days ago, we watched a video of Andrew riding his new two-wheeler. He’d grown out of the other one just as he was getting a taste for how cool the world looks from the top of a bike seat.

We want to grow up and we want to remain children. The funny child, the child who believes that the world is good and the child who realizes that joy sometimes rests in the simplest of pleasures.

Take the bike down from the hooks in the rafters. Blow up the tires. Brush off the dust. Ride as if your life depends on it.

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or 661-395-7279.

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