Flavor Flav was and is the hype man for seminal rap group Public Enemy. Even if you don’t know their music or who Flav is, if you paid attention during the 80’s and 90’s or saw Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing with their hit, “Fight the Power,” there’s a good chance you heard of the guy wearing a big clock around his neck saying, “Yeah, boyeeeee!” and “Flav-or Flaaaaaav!” (By mentioning Flav, I’m pointing out an example of successful marketing; I’m definitely not condoning his run-ins with the law.) Chuck D was and still is the main voice of serious political rap, but FF keeps it fun. Professional athletes, celebrities, and politicians also have paid hype people — publicists to trumpet their successes and explain away their losses or mistakes. This dude just has this little blog, and Strava the fitness app, through which to toot my own horn. So, it’s tootin’ time. And yeah, I just reached 30,000 miles of bicycling in five years, eight months, and 10 days. Not too shabby for a dude who’s old and flabby. It brings up some questions: How did it begin? How did I get here? What does this milestone mean? And what’s for dinner?
My bicycle journey began as a little kid on a tricycle. There’s photographic evidence to prove it. Later I’d make the switch to a bike with with training wheels. Later, an orange bike with a banana seat. The Raleigh in my photo on this site. Other bikes came and went, and for years after high school I forgot about biking at all. After someone wrecked my car in 2005, I spent over 15 years as a car-free cyclist. My biking practice really began in earnest on December 19, 2015, a couple of months after my birthday – the big Five-Oh. (Like Saturday Night Live’s Molly Shannon as Sally O’Malley, “I can kick, and I can stretch, and I can kick, cause I’m FIFTY!” )
When I got a smart phone and Strava, though, I began tracking every ride. Training for charity rides. They got longer and longer. Eventually, four centuries (100 miles in a day). I just kept going. Commuting, doing errands, extra mileage, group rides, rides with friends. Since October 2019 I’ve been biking every single day. Attempts to get healthier, lose weight, and survive the pandemic. And now, five years, eight months, and 10 days later, I’ve hit 30,000 miles. Like Robert Klein, “I can’t stop my legs.”
After achieving the equivalent of riding around the equator (24,901 miles), which happened October 2020, I didn’t give much thought to mileage goals. In fact, I expected I would slack off and reduce my time on the bike. And after my best year ever of 6,666.66 miles, I did just that. But here’s the thing about riding a bike — despite the effort, discomfort, struggle and sometimes downright suffering involved, there’s still always an element of fun involved. As a grown ass dude, it feels slightly subversive to find myself in traffic on a two-wheeled conveyance that only operates under my own power. It’s the US, and Texas, where car culture is still king. (Some day I’ll have to switch to a pedal-assist electric bike, but not today.) Leaning into a curve, cresting a hill, bombing down it (sometimes even in the super-tuck position if I’m feeling cheeky), passing people on the street, seeing stuff I wouldn’t from a car — it’s all good stuff. I feel sorry for my younger self missing all those years he could have been biking.
But it comes down to one pedal stroke at a time, then the next. This evening I went on a ride with Rhodney, one of few friends I know who still ride their bikes, and he’s an older dude. We went to a place to say hi to the son of Cape John, A Midnight Rider, but he wasn’t going to be there until later. So we biked back, parted company, and it worked out that I hit 30,000 miles after a loop around the block at The Peddler Bike Shop. Which was quite fitting given how they worked on my green Huffy for many years and still help me out as needed.
There are no grand lessons, at least in this post. It’s an accomplishment, to be sure. And it was fucking hard, a ton of effort, and continues to get harder the older and less healthy I get. So I’m pissed about that. But I did it. It was work, and there were and are naysayers. I had and have to find confidence from within, without much of it coming from elsewhere. Though I’m grateful for the support I have received. Some people have done what I did much faster, with more elevation. Others have done it slower, with less elevation. Many will never even attempt or reach it. It’s all good, we’re all different. For much of this time, I haven’t had a job so I’ve more time than many. That’s fixin’ to change, though.
None of that matters. I did 30,000 miles, man! As long as there’s electricity, the internet, and Strava.com exists and doesn’t remove my profile, it’ll be there. A sort of legacy, like this blog, I guess (much more likely to disappear if I miss a renewal or die and no one else keeps paying for it). What’s the point? Multiple points: fight the battle of the bulge (even if I’m basically a pacifist and it’s a losing battle). Keep the blood pumping and the oxygen flowing. Ward off disease. Go somewhere without polluting. See places, people and things. Enjoy the journey. Biking is its own reward.
That’s good enough for me. “That’ll do, dude, that’ll do,” to paraphrase James Cromwell as Farmer Hagen in Babe.
After the above ride, it was three more miles to get home. The journey of another 30,000 miles began with those three miles. Who knows if I’ll duplicate this, or even come close? “Tomorrow is promised to no one,” Walter Peyton, great former running back for the Chicago Bears, said. But if you’re not in the obit, eat breakfast (title of a documentary with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Dick Van Dyke and Norman Lear. Then go ride your bike. Or do that voodoo that you do so well (Frank Sinatra).
Let’s finish with three quotes to live by from Flav. Despite his many flaws, one thing I do admire about the man is his confidence.
I got a lot happening, a whole lot, and it’s not always easy being me.
The moments we have behind us, you won’t be able to see again. We’re only responsible for what we live in right now.
I’ll tell you one thing you can’t do: you can’t put your shoes on, then your socks on.Flavor Flav
And as a bonus, which I didn’t know when I randomly began this post about a rap group hype man, father of 12 (different wives), who’s had frequent troubles with addiction and the law but who’s gotten himself together mostly, here he is on a tall bike:
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