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by Lynette Chiang
"I'm 84 and I've come all the way from Orinda."
The older gentleman in the white nylon, press-studded jacket rode up to the Bike Friday tent like any other reasonably fit, older cyclist. The only clue that might have given away his tenure on terra firma was the red stamp on his jacket: RENSSELAER POLYTECHNIC COLLEGE, CLASS OF 1940.
"Class of 1940 - is that for real?" I asked, thinking of the faux smarty sweatshirts that say, "Yale University" which any bonehead might find in Goodwill.
"Oh yes, I studied architecture, and my father was a professor at the same institute in New York," he said through a perfect set of chattering teeth. The damp San Francisco Bay wind blew between me in my triple layer wicking windproof waterproofs and Mr James Fessenden in his triple layer flannel shirt, woolly sweater and nylon windbreaker...circa 1940.
"I took the train from Orinda and it took me a long time to get from Market street to here, I got all the way over to the Golden Gate Bridge, looking everywhere for you, then I came back this way and spotted you."
The very least I could do for this outstanding cyclist was to affix a shiny new Bike Friday headbadge to his well-used, Green Gear Green, 'Olde' World Tourist. Immediately, the bike went 'ting' like the sugar plum fairy had blessed it with her wand.
Although the average age of a Bike Friday owner is 48+, customers in their 70's and 80's, of which there are several, are extra special people. They show the sedentary SUV set the kind of later life they can look forward to if they stop pushing the gas pedal every time they need to go to the store for a loaf of Wonderbread.
But many, like James Fessenden, stay fit of mind and body simply by riding their bikes a little every day.
"My son's got a different kind of Bike Friday. He couldn't make it but I got your postcard and I told him I was going to come."
With that, he turned around, inserted a leather shoe into this toestrap, and pedaled back the way he came.