I Want to Ride My Bicycle

Inspired by Shannon

Just about fourteen months ago I’ve stopped riding my bicycle. The level of physical activity I had maintained up until then came to an almost complete stop. I was diagnosed with a ruptured disk in my lower back. The pain became unbearable and it stabbed down through my right leg. I couldn’t walk any longer, let alone exercise.

Instead of surgery, I took the long road to recovery and stayed in bed for over a month. The many x-rays and scans of my back were examined on both sides of the Mediterranean with virtually the same verdict. Surgery was ruled out as I was suffering from three separate injuries to my lower back, the oldest of which dated back to 1996.
My body had been complaining and giving me warning signals for some time but I had turned a deaf ear. For four years in a row I was driving a two hundred kilometers roundtrip everyday to work in Lattakia. I would spend the whole day standing up on my own two feet on the job site. I kept lifting weights that I was not supposed to, twisting myself under or over machinery and climbing stairs like a fifteen year old kid on the trail of a naked Britney Spears (or whomever they are running after nowadays). Eventually, there was one wrong move too many and my back gave in.

I have done well coming out of it the way I did. However, my body is not the same it used to be. My frantic mobility had slowed down. Even riding my motorcycle became a rationed joy and I have come to accept that the longer rides were not for me any longer.

I have never been a health freak. I enjoy a good meal, a social drink or two and a cigarette or cigar every once in a while. I’ve always burned what I ate though and my weight remained almost constant. But in the last year alone, I have gained six unwanted kilos due to the lack of any proper exercise. The main problem was that I hate any indoor work out routine. I am an active person in the way a manual laborer is rather than a white collar stiff going to the gym to burn those extra calories. I enjoy the outdoors tremendously and my favorite passion had been hunting quails in the countryside. Simply translated that would mean a thirty kilometers walk on rough terrain at least twice a week. Then hunting was banned in Syria, not for the right reasons I am afraid. I needed an alternative and fast, so I bought my first bicycle as an adult.

The Tartous Corniche (Sea Boulevard) is a seven kilometer road stretched north to south at the sea front. At least four times a week, I would ride by the sea to the edge of town and back home, a distance of roughly sixteen kilometers in a little less than forty five minutes. On weekends with nice weather and calm winds, I would sometimes ride to Rimal Zahabieh and back, a distance of thirty five kilometers. I kept my weight in check and my physical stamina the envy of people half my age.

I am back on my bicycle and it feels great. I love to ride it in cold weather in my afternoon break. I owe it to Shannon. I read her post about getting back in shape, switched my PC off, left the office in a hurry and took my bicycle to the shop for a thorough check and tune-up. Here I am, twenty four hours later, enjoying the chilly wind blowing in my face and the beautiful sea easing my eyes and mind. I am riding again, and I would do so every chance I get.


The Syrian Brit said…
Good for you, mate!.. How wonderful to be able to ride along the beach four times a week!.. I wish I could find the time, the stamina, and, of course, the beach!.. (We live in a land-locked, very hilly part of Lancashire!..)
Anonymous said…
the first time you write something cheezy. Next time will be better.
Abufares said…
Hi Syrian Brit
Tartous is one of the nicer places to enjoy riding a bicycle since the streets are relatively flat. Although I don't go around much during the day, but I have been driving the car very sparingly and prefer to walk instead. With a bicycle the whole city is my backyard literally.

I really had nothing else to say except that I've resumed riding my bicycle. From a personal and physical point of view it's really important to me. However, eventually, I might have something more meaningful to talk about, but there's no guarantee.

Thank you both for reading and commenting.
Anonymous said…
What can I say...except for "count your blessings"... some of us have had to live in Damascus since coming back to Syria 14 years, 13 days, 8 hours, and 45 minutes ago...!!

For God's sake... you cannot even even walk accross the street around here... and they think that imbibing Arak is "drinking"...!!

Count your blessings my friend...!
Shannon said…
Glad to have been an inspiration! I wish you all the best with your new cycling routine. I also would like to get back on my bicycle but unfortunatly have no where as nice as the Tartous Corniche to cycle on.
Abufares said…
Hi Naji
Tartous almost returns to normal in the afternoon. In the morning it has become too crowded and the drivers are even crazier and worse mannered than in Damascus. I am fortunate that my office is very close to home so I don't have to use my car at all. I am even luckier that the few job sites I supervise are all withing walking distance as well.
Abufares said…
I'm sure you have a few favorite places in Las Vegas for a nice and quiet bicycle ride.
Once you get back, let us know.
Unknown said…
That's very impressive Abufares. I congratulate you on your effort to stay in shape, and what better way to do it than biking along the Syrian coast?

I frequent the gym roughly three times a week during my coop terms, but I usually stop when school starts. This term I decided to keep up the routine and dedicate a few hours to the gym every week. Let's see how that works out..
Abufares said…
Thank you Omar
As long as it's not hot I'm motivated. Comes summer, I have to find myself something else to do as I really can't stand to exercise in the heat.
Shadi HIJAZI said…

I wish I could do the same to get rid of the few unwanted kilos I gained...

Enjoy cycling Abu Fares, but dont be away much from the PC :)
Abufares said…
Hi Shadi
I'll try to enjoy my PC as much as I can. The truth is that I'm sitting in front of it for many hours every day but doing something not so much fun. It's called work.
Thank you for dropping by.
Dubai Jazz said…
Abu Fares, I salute you for your resolution, my stance of the importance of physical practice couldn’t be more supportive; it is the best pastime/hobby ever. Cycling does have an advantage over the other kinds of sports; it goes softer on the joints and the cartilages.
I know of a person who’s in his 50’s and who’s very fit and has the best stamina, but unfortunately he had to replace his hips joints (with chrome ones) because of 25 years tearing and wearing of playing Squash! (unfortunately again, he now walks with a limp)
Why has Tartous become crowded?? Have our Iraqi brothers reached there as well?!
My memories of Tartous is that its downtown (the area around the train station) is a bit crowded, but it wasn’t the case elsewhere. I stayed in Fonduk Tartous Al Kabeer (Tartous Grand Hotel), the view was fabulous, and in the evenings I would amble across the Corniche, it was around March / April and the breeze was spectacularly gentle. There was then a newly opened restaurant (Amwaj was it called?), with huge flat screen TV, it was a time when those were very rare in Syria…. Sweet memories of a beautiful city…
BTW Abu Fares, that bridge over the train station, the one with the pinnacle, does still it exist ? :)
Angel said…
Whether cycling in the park, on a great beach like yours or through the peaceful countryside, cycling can give a great feeling of excitement and freedom. As well as being a good way to keep fit and loose weight, cycling improves balance and co-ordination, beats stress and helps you sleep…
It is a fantastic experience that moves my soul and my heart…
A friend of mine says: ‘by riding each day you build a good appetite to appreciate the great food ;-)”

Happy healthy cycling Abufares
Karin said…
I'm really happy you're enjoying your bike the way you did before the back-injury!! I envy you but am determined to get another bike as well - it will be about the 3rd or even 4th but that doesn't matter! I love the outdoors as well, a LOT even .. just at temperatures like currently here in Nebraska of MINUS 11 degrees and windshields going down to MINUS 30 degrees, I better stay indoors otherwise I'll be frozen solid in no time!
Thanks so much for the GREAT post!!
I sent you some updates on SKYPE ..
Abufares said…
Hi Dubai Jazz
Thank you for the encouragement.
To answer your questions...
Tartous is very crowded as all Syrian cities because the number of cars has quadrupled in the last few years with little or no improvement at all to the existing road structure.
The strangest bridge in the world over the rail road is still here. It should be used by daredevils to jump their motorcycles or something. You know I should take a picture of that bridge.
Amwaj and many other restaurants and cafes are open now in what is the new Tartous strip. These joints are always full with young and old people alike.
The corniche is being redone. They have landfilled the sea for a distance of about 100m beyond the corniche road. If and when this project is completed it should look nice.
Abufares said…
Thank you Angel for your wishes. May be one day you can join me for a bicycle ride in Tartous:)
Abufares said…
Hello Karin
I have been very busy lately as I have told you. I enjoy my PC and all the joys it brings when I am alone in the office in the afternoon. Recently, I've had visitors almost everyday. It will be back to normal soon and I look forward our nice chats. I'll try to do that ASAP.
Ascribo said…
Oh, staying in shape, tell me about it...I hope I won't graduate looking like a Martian!

Cycling was one of my "habites" long time ago...I didn't even had to "stay in shape". I must have gone along that beach some hundreds of times (at least till my bike was stolen!)

I would say that I would like to join you for a ride when you're in mood...keep it up!
Abufares said…
It's been sometime since you've last dropped here.
Just remember: "All work and no play makes [Ascribo] a very dull boy."
Looking forward reading you again.
Anonymous said…
Abu Fares,
Somehow found myself on your blog and discovered your passion for bikes. Actually, I'll be taking part in a bike ride with Follow the Women (bunch of women hoping to draw attention to the situation in the Middle East) that starts in Aleppo and ends up in Amman (well, Palestine for the non-Arabs). We'll be cycling through Tartous at some point on the way to Lebanon, and it would be great to meet up with local cycling enthusiasts - even if men :))

I've just starting training for the ride and I'm beginning to panic cause I'm so out of shape and the ride is in early April, but your post has given me a bit of am added push.
Abufares said…
Hello Lujayn
Welcome to my blog and I hope to see you here more often.
How could I resist the temptation of riding with a group of women. Oh man, this is almost too good to be true.
Of course I would love to and I can even spread the word if you want.
I greatly appreciate it if you can send me an email a few days before your planned trip at:
abufares at bigfoot dot com
and inform me about your expected time of arrival. If I'm in good enough shape to ride the 30 km to the border (and possibly back) I will certainly do that. I might as well start getting myself ready.
Ciao, and thanks again for your visit.

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