Get off the couch and go ride a bi­cy­cle

The Covington News - - Sports - JOSH BRIGGS SPORTS EDI­TOR

The streets of down­town Cov­ing­ton and sur­round­ing area in New­ton County will be very busy this week­end. No, it’s not be­cause of road con­struc­tion. In­stead the streets will be full of bi­cy­cles.

The Ge­or­gia Cy­cling Gran Prix rolls into town Fri­day and four of the six races will be held in Cov­ing­ton from to­day through Sun­day. Satur­day in par­tic­u­lar will be a thrilling day down­town. From 2-6 p.m., rac­ers will scream around the square and zoom right past The News as they head down Usher Street and back to­ward the square. It’s the cri­terium race. There will be eight of them. Cri­terium races are close-quar­ter bi­cy­cle races on a short, closed cir­cuit. Think NAS­CAR on bi­cy­cles. The rac­ing will be fast and fu­ri­ous (no hor­ri­ble movie ref­er­ence in­tended).

This week­end’s twowheel ac­tiv­ity re­minds me of the days when bi­cy­cles were a child’s most prized pos­ses­sion. I am of the E.T gen­er­a­tion. Be­fore Steven Spiel­berg’s in­sanely pop­u­lar sci-fi, feel-good movie in­tro­duced the world to Reese’s Pieces, we rode our BMX bikes ev­ery­where. We rode them to school and parked them in the bike rack. We rode them on dan­ger­ous high­ways to our friends’ houses. If we wanted to get some­where, we rode our bikes. Af­ter E.T. came out, BMX bike pop­u­lar­ity in­creased even more. Ev­ery­one wanted a Kuwa­hara like El­liot rode with E.T. in the bas­ket (mi­nus the bas­ket of course). Bi­cy­cles gave us a sense of in­de­pen­dence.

Bikes also taught a lot of us how to fix things. I was con­stantly work­ing on my bike — swap­ping forks and han­dle bars; in­stalling new seats and necks; chang­ing backand-forth be­tween free­wheel and foot­brakes. We cus­tom­ized our bikes with dif­fer­ent rims and

tires and for me it also planted the seed that grew into my love for cars. My how things have changed.

Kids these days don’t ride bikes like they used to. In­stead, they sit in front of the TV or com­puter and play video games. Gone are the days where you would call a friend (on the house phone) and make plans to ride your bike to the mall. Lost is the in­de­pen­dence kids had as bike own­ers.

Now for some dis­turb­ing sta­tis­tics. In 1985, the obe­sity rate in Cal­i­for­nia — my home state, was less than 10 per­cent. In Ge­or­gia, it was less than 14 per­cent. In 2010, the obe­sity rate in Cal­i­for­nia jumped to 24 per­cent while here in Ge­or­gia, it rose to 30 per­cent. Does this have any­thing to do with the de­cline in bike rid­ing? I be­lieve it does. Kids aren’t as ac­tive as they were be­fore tech­nol­ogy sup­planted imag­i­na­tion and base­ball video games be­came the sport choice dur­ing the sum­mer.

If you get a chance, go check out the bike races this week­end. Not only are you sure to see some hair-rais­ing rac­ing, you may in­spire your son or daugh­ter to take up cy­cling. The days of kids lust­ing af­ter a new bike for Christ­mas may be gone for­ever. But so­ci­ety would be a lot bet­ter off if we can again in­still that in­de­pen­dence in our youth we as adults once en­joyed. Not to men­tion, kids would be get­ting ex­er­cise.

The last time I checked, video game con­trollers don’t do a whole lot for the mid­sec­tion. Nei­ther do Reese’s Pieces.

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