PUMPING IRONY: Bicycling and Bistros

Everyone needs a little incentive to find their path to a healthy life. Mine involves bicycling and bistros.

man biking in Uptown
Is this exercise? Navigating Uptown traffic on the way to another culinary detour.

My Lovely Wife and I are what you might call “recreational bicyclists.” No spandex shorts or shoes that attach themselves to the pedals (?!?), no colorful shirts with the cute little pocket in the back. You won’t find us on a Saturday morning pedaling feverishly in the midst of a peloton whooshing along a country road at 20 MPH halfway into a casual 50-mile jaunt.

But that’s not to say we aren’t serious cyclists. I’ve commuted to work on my bike for the better part of the last 35 years. We’ve both pedaled through Minnesota winters and MLW once bicycled from our Minneapolis home all the way out to suburban Roseville to wish her mom a happy Mother’s Day. There’s nothing we like better than pedaling from Point A to Point B. Or, as we demonstrated last Friday, from Point A to Point G.

We don’t really do this for the workout (though it’s great exercise for MLW and her gimpy right knee); we tend to need an added incentive to saddle up. It’s just human nature. People often need extra encouragement to make healthy choices. It’s something our dysfunctional medical system knows only too well (more on this later).

Anyway, I took the day off on Friday ostensibly to ride with MLW over to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), about 5 miles distant, to wander through the new Matisse exhibition. By the end of the day, we’d logged more than 14 miles. That may sound impressive until you learn that it took us about nine hours to make the trip.

Round Trip

First, the de rigeur coffeeshop stop about 3 miles into the trip for a cup of espresso. I could produce studies showing the salutary effects of caffeine on athletic performance, though my latté had more to do with washing down the chocolate chip cookie. Then, up and over the Martin Olav Sabo bicycle bridge (lovely view of the Minneapolis skyline), which spit us out onto the Midtown Greenway. A half-hour or so later, we pulled up to the MIA, where we lunched at the mezzanine restaurant before making our way through the Matisse show.

I don’t know if Henri was a bicyclist, but he was French, so I assume that he would’ve approved of our post-museum itinerary: a glass of wine on the sun-soaked patio at the venerable Black Forest Inn, a futile search for a couple of books by the late Peter Matthiessen at an Uptown bookshop, a light mid-afternoon snack at Lucia’s Wine Bar, followed by a calorie-crunching, car-dodging dash through the East Calhoun neighborhood, landing at a bistro called The Blackbird just as dusk was descending.

I’m guessing we’d covered about 10 miles by this time without working up a sweat, so it’s hard to count it as exercise, but we definitely worked up an appetite between stops. And now, with darkness setting in, we headed east to our favorite neighborhood bistro for a little dessert and to toast our little adventure: nine hours, 14 miles, six culinary detours.

It’s those detours that tend to persuade us to get off our duffs and get on the road these days. Just that little extra incentive. Our Medical-Industrial Complex understands that too, which is why I wasn’t surprised to hear recently that researchers at Rutgers University, concerned that guys my age aren’t taking their cholesterol-lowering statins as religiously as they should, are now touting these drugs for their ability to improve our sexual performance.

I’m not going to go into all the reasons why statins may not be the best way to lower your risk of a heart attack or boost your boudoir behavior (you can read about that here). I’ll just say that everybody gets to choose their preferred pathway to good health and the incentives that help them on their journey. For myself, nothing beats a day of bistro-hopping on my old Schwinn.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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