The monstrous Sphinx in Greek mythology posed this riddle to all travelers who entered or left the city of Thebes, “What has one voice but goes on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening?”  The king of Thebes declared he would give his kingdom to anyone who solved the riddle, and young Oedipus guessed the answer.  “It’s a human being,” he declared, “for man crawls as a baby, stands on two legs as an adult, and walks with a stick in old age.”

I have a new take on Oedipus’s answer.  It’s a human being alright, for as a baby, he crawls before he can mount a bicycle, rides a tricycle as he grows, moves up to a bicycle, and returns to the tricycle as an old man.

Cycling has been a part of my life since I was a kid on West Housatonic Street in Pittsfield.  As a young boy in the 50s and 60s, it was a primary and essential mode of transportation.  It gave way to fast cars and supersonic jets as a young man but returned as an obsession when I turned 60.

In those days, a 40-mile ride was not unusual, and I forced myself into a 60-mile ride one Saturday morning when I took a wrong turn in the desert.  My aging mother would berate me and declare, “You will wear yourself out.”  I smiled and shrugged my shoulders all the while thinking, “Isn’t that the point?  To wear myself out in healthy activity versus choosing to be a lazy person staring at a TV screen?

Since 2009, I’ve pedaled 37,000 miles until an untimely bicycling accident on December 1, 2022, from which I escaped with a broken femur and a damaged artificial hip that required extensive surgery.  The leg has healed, but I still limp noticeably and don’t have the balance to climb back on my bicycle.

The inactivity left me stir-crazy.  About a month ago, I came up with the solution.  I headed to the bike shop and picked up a Sun Trike.  Frankly, I’ve seen these trikes before and always laughed them off as not for me.  My, how life changes!

Tricycling has been a liberating experience.  In the old days, I’d set an annual goal of 3,000 to 4,000 miles [and I record every mile I ride].  I set my 2024 goal at a meager 500 miles with the trike.  I seem to average 5mph.  I ride a minimum of 30 minutes each day, more often, 60, and I have logged over 8 miles in a single day.  I think my 500-mile goal is realistic and achievable.

Strength is returning to my legs and my mental health is improving as well.  The other day, I passed a group of ‘youngsters’ at a nearby park pretending to play basketball while vaping during their frequent breaks.  When they saw me, they called out, “Hey, grandma, how ya doin’?” And laughed.  I let the mocking comments pass along with the urge to pull over and challenge them to a game of horse which I was confident I could win even with my bum leg.  I smiled and waved with five fingers and pedaled on.

I’ve long been a proponent of bicycling and consider it a major part of my health care.  I believe it is an essential skill for everyone who has the physical capacity to do it.  Had I not had the accident a year ago, I know I would still be bicycling, but tricycling is an excellent alternative when age or physical trauma makes climbing aboard your bicycle dangerous or impossible.

‘Wearing your body out’ is a good thing when directed toward positive physical and mental outcomes. Life is filled with riddles, and the sooner you figure them out the better. That said, better late than never, and don’t let your pride get in the way.

Mitakuye Oyasin

Join the Conversation


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Hi Gene…. So Good to see You “back in the saddle” !! You are the epitome of God’s miracles “in action” ! ‘Specially enjoyed seeing you…(and your brother) as a kid with your first real bike !! We continue to keep You, and ALL of Yours in our prayers !
    Keep up the good work !! We’re tucking in Lots of HUGS to Share !!
    Bette and Ernie