Seasonal Reawakening
Brings Out iPod People,
Dogs and Kids on Bikes

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

By Patrick O'Grady

  Seems like I never start spring training until the boys of summer do. Small wonder I look like I spent the winter slouched on the bench, chewin' and spittin'.

  I'm not alone, though. Every time I sneak out of the office for a short ride, I find plenty of comrades fighting the Battle of the Bulge, all of us struggling to become reacquainted with our various exercise implements while challenging the design limitations of spandex.

  A long winter's confinement spent plugged into various electronic devices seems to have left many of these pilgrims unwilling to brave the wilderness unencumbered — an iPod here, a cell phone there, sometimes the two at once, with an unleashed dog for low-tech companionship in case the batteries run down.

  Frankly, these are not the people you want to encounter in your own spring-fevered bemusement as you take those first feeble steps toward shaking the cobwebs from your own withered musculature. Just about the time you start to recover your rhythm, there one squats, larger than life, aware as a stone and impeding your progress, fiddling with this, that or the other.

  They were everywhere yesterday, like speed bumps with a pulse, many sporting the pinched expression that suggests a dire need for a laxative, or maybe a hemorrhoidectomy. One plus-sized honey with earbuds, bent over in mid-trail like a jumbo ostrich, blotted out the sun as she adjusted a balky inline skate. I've learned not to announce my presence to the iPod People because they don't believe anyone else shares their little world and a solid refutation only startles them, generally straight into your path. I'd rather hear them screech in abject terror after I sail safely past.

  What Are They Feeding Those Dogs? Other shocks await one's system during these first few warm-weather rides, not least of which is cycling past a dog park thawing under a March sun. There's nothing quite like the delicate aroma of defrosting dung to encourage an uptick in cadence and take your mind off the Clif Bar in that jersey pocket.

  After a lifetime of keeping company with various canines, I'm coming to appreciate my role as staff to a mangled, raggedy-ass cat, and this is one of the many reasons why. To the average overfed pooch, the planet is one big, round, free-range toilet. But Kitty has a special box in which she deposits crap for you, like a mail carrier delivering bills. The inevitable payment can thus be deferred, especially if you keep the litter box tucked away in a cool basement.

  Not so when you're cycling uphill past a steaming pile of Rottweiler exhaust on a hot afternoon. That's strictly pay as you go.

  Smells Like Teen Spirit. But these and other treats for the senses aside, life doesn't get much better than this, rolling around to no particular purpose in mid-March.

  I was reminded of this by one of the teen-agers across the street, the kid who who got a bike for Christmas. It was only the beginning of what proved to be a pretty stout winter, but he rode it anyway, even on days when the only riding I would do was inside a Subaru Forester with heated seats. Come mid-March, when he was unexpectedly granted a couple days' parole from high school, he was practically grafted to the saddle.

  He's not training for anything; his primary sport is soccer, so the bike is merely a pleasant diversion. And his kit wasn't exactly top shelf, something a couple of our local land sharks apparently mentioned in passing ("Kinda new to this, are ya?"). So I gave him an official Mad Dog Media team jersey for his 17th birthday. And now I have a wardrobe-related problem of my own.

  I don't look nearly as good in my jersey as the kid does in his. So next year, when he turns 18, I'm giving him a case of beer.

This column appeared in the April 1, 2007, edition of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.

u n c o l l a r e d

  "Mad Dog Unleashed" is the column I write for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, a trade mag based in Laguna Hills, California. When I started writing it in the early Nineties it was called "A Consumer's Viewpoint," because while I had spent a good deal of time in bike shops over the years, I had never actually worked in one. Plus it was plain to management that while I was willing to work cheap, I had all the business acumen of a banana slug. The column was rechristened "Mad Dog Unleashed" when it also became apparent that I had a ravenous appetite for the hand that fed me, and over the years it has devolved into a platform for me to expound at length on all the other topics about which I am entirely ignorant. Occasionally bicycles are mentioned.

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