The Yellow Monster
Jo Cooper
       I shouldn't call it a monster. It's a beautiful, shiny, new ten-speed bike. But to me it's a monster. It isn't as if I've never ridden a bicycle. I'm in my forties, but I was pretty active on a three-speed until we moved here where it's so hilly. My husband is three years older than I am, but he should have marreid a gal twenty years younger. He bought himself a ten-speed bike last Christmas and has been riding it to work ever since. Now he's up to the Century Ride with the local bike club. That's 100 miles and he made it easily in seven hours.
     I've manage to lose 25 of the edtra 35 pounds I aws trying to ;pack onthe bike, so I thought I was ready for a ten-speed and some longer ridse myself. Then I wouldn't have to stay home alone weekends while he went biking, right? Wrong!
     I read aarticleas in the bike magazines he brought home about the senior citizens in Florida who ride everyday. I bought books about "Touring Through France," with scenic picture of slim, young couples on bikes loaded down with camping gear, but it didn't prepare me. I've had my yellow monster three months now and I still hate it.
     In case you've never ridden a ten-speed, let me explain. First of all the handle bars are situated so that technically your weight is evenly distributed to three spots, instead of just the seat. In reality, this means that unless you were born a hunch-back, with a stiff neck, it will take you at least six months to get used to the new position. Your arms are straight out and down. Your head is pointed down so that your eyes see just your front tire. To see where you are going, you must arch your head up. With my bifocals, I find this imperative, as well as uncomfortable.
     Now, the gears. "It's just like learning to drive a car," my husband said sweetly.
     "But I didn't learn a stick shift while the car was in motion," I said hesitantly. You cannot shift bike gears unless you are pedaling at the same time.
     On a three-speed bike the grars are marked, "Low, Med, and HIgh." On a ten-speed, where things are really compiocated, there are no markings at all. My husband had me type up a little line of numbers taht he said would simplify everything.

     The numbers on the left correspond with your left hand lever. This gear shifts only from 1 to 2. The lever on your right goes from 1 to 5. However, you must have the correct combinations and progress from lowest to highest in the above sequence. In other words, 2-3 is a lower gear than 1-4 and you must never be in 1-5 or 2-1 or 2-2.
     I taped the list correctly where I could read them on the bike. That was the last thing I manage to do right.
     "You can just 'feel' it, like you do a car," my husband went on when I complained that there was no way I could tell where to put the lever to change gears. "And then you can look, no, not around that way, look down between your legs and you can see the gears on the back wheel."
     My extra ten pounds of tummy got in the way, my bifocals slid up on my nose and I swerved immediately into a bush on the side of the road. "You're crazy!" I shouted, picking myself up.
     "It jsut takes practice," he went on, "and a little patience."
"I just ran out."
     Quite frankly, I am not athletically inclined. Since I played basefall with the neighborhood boys in grade school, I have not been interested in any outdoor sports what-so-ever. Unfortunately, I married a man who is.
     I mounted my yellow monster again.
     "Turn here," my husband yelled after I had already passed the intersection.
     "Why didn't you tell me," I yelled when I caught up with him in the next block. "You said we were going to the hardware store on Huntington, didn't you?"
     "Yes, but you can't cross there. You have to learn your way around."
I have to learn to have my head examined for ever getting on this thing, I thought as we stopped at the busy boulevard. There was no light at this corner, but after a long wait, there was a slight break in the traffic and luckily my gears didn't shift by themselve, as they were wont to do in heavy traffic, and I made it half way across and stopped again. Here we must turn left. There wa s crosswalk and a school crossing guard to our left. When there were no cars coming and no children crossing II carefully manipulated a correct left turn.
     "Hey, lady! You there stop! I want to talk to you." the crossing guard called after me.
     I couldn't' believe it , but I stopped several yards down the street. He walked slowly over to me as my husband stopped behind me.
     "I know your'e adults, but I try hard every day here to teach the children the correct way and if you do it wrong, they just won't understand. If you come here again I want you to ride across on the cross walk."
     "Ah, come on now," I started weakly. My husband had spent many hours with the local police figuring bikeways and bike safety rules and regulations. We had proceeded exactly to the letter of the law. Keeping in the correct lanes as authorized vehicles. Here was another joker who thought bicycles were to be considered as pedestrians. "I'm sorry," I said, "but bicycles are NOT allowed to be ridden in cross walks. If we'd been walking them across the street, then maybe, but..."
     "No, no, you could have ridden just to the outside of the cross walk. You see, I'm responsible for this corner and.."
     "But wait a minute. In order to get to your side of the street, to the cross walk, we would have had to go the wrong way of the traffic there in the middle of the boulevard.
     "Oh, you're allowed to do that. On a bike you can..."
     "No, no," my husband started in. He tried to explain, but the elderly man was positive he was right. We gave up and went on -- me shaking -- to the hardware store.
     "No, no, turn here," my husband called as I rode toward the front of the store. "We have to park in the back where we can lock them."
     "Great!" I got off and walked my bike on the sidewalk rather than take a chance of the crossing guard seeing me ride on the wrong side of the street. I'd missed the turn at the alley.
     To go home without contact with the crossing guard meant a detour of not one, but nine blocks, but I insisted. Two bourbon and waters at home didn't really squelch my fears. Tomorrow I must face the yellow monster again, I thought.
     Dutifully I forced myself to practice for several weeks. Finally we agreed. I was in condition for a 20 mile trip. I should have quit half way when I found myself walking up a hill near the Rose Bowl, but my husband assured me, "It's all downhill going home." It wasn't! I ached all over and spent several hours on the couch, afraid to utter a word for fear I'd dissolve our marriage.
     The next day, i decided if someone offered me $100 a mile, I still would never, as long as I live, try to bike more than five or ten miles a day. I am a 40 year old woman, a wife and a mother. I enjoy writing, knitting, even cookiing, and when my husband is on an extra long bike trip, I stay home and prepare for his return.
     Last Sunday, due to the gasoline shortage, he biked 32 miles to where the bike club started their rides. Then he went on their "short" ride; 28 miles, and then biked home again. A total of 92 miles.
     My timing was perfect. Ten minutes after he came in the front door, two loaves of home-made bread came out of the oven. He was so delighted, I could have saved the sexy outfit I'd whipped up for another time.
     We've decided to enjoy indoor sports together and bike alone. I've declared a truce with my yellow monaster. Just for the duration of the energy crisis, it will allow me to put two large baskets, from my old three-speed, across it's rear fender and will carry me to and from the nearest grocery store, which is only two blocks away. the rest of the time, I will dust it occasionally as it stands motionless in our sunroom
1500 words

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