I've been battling "bad" knees for years. (A hard fall on my kneecaps caused arthritis there). I've managed doing most things by taking a prophylactic handful of Advil and soldering on and capping my activities with another handful. Years ago I was told I had knee replacement in my future, albeit at a distant point.
Sometime last year the left knee got so painful, I had to just about quit doing anything. I figured the time was up on my original equipment and I needed a new knee. I ended up seeing 3 different orthos: 1) you need a knee replacement, but you are too young (HuH? do I just sit on the couch and fester until I'm old enough?); 2) why do you think you need a knee replacement, lets try PT and I'll send you to my colleague for arthroscopic surgery if you still have pain; and 3) I'll be doing your lateral release surgery (cutting tissue to allow the kneecap to get back in place).
I did PT--it was magic, the knee was lots better, but still very painful. Now, almost 4 months after the lateral release surgery (and cleanup of a big meniscus tear and removal of arthritis from kneecap), I'm waaaaay better than last year but not as good as new. By which I mean, I CANNOT ride my beautiful nearly new Trek Madone (bicycle). She's the prettiest thing I own, I love her in a way you are NOT supposed to love material things. After convincing myself I could ride her, I spent an afternoon crying because I couldn't make a single revolution.
Yesterday afternoon, my husband bought me a used recumbent ('bent) from a pawn shop, a Rans Stratus LE. Its wheelbase is easily as long as our bikes were when we rode the kids across the state of Oklahoma around on AlleyCat Shadows (one wheeled trail-a-bike devices that attach to the seatpost and enable the kid to pedal along). The wheelbase is longer than either of the tandems that we owned at one time. Compared to the Madone, it's a ship anchor.
I spent the day cleaning her chain, adjusting her brakes, and making micro adjustments to the seat (it is definitely a seat--NOT a saddle) to enable me to pedal. This afternoon I went for a ride--and I was able to ride.
Except for this last year, there hasn't been a time (unless I was pregnant or had the flu or some other affliction) since the early 80s when I couldn't get on a bike and ride 50 miles. if I chose to do so. Today I rode maybe 2 miles, maybe a little more. I was worn out: out of shape; recumbent uses different muscles; steering is funky; and knee not completely rehabbed, it was a bit stressed.
IT WAS GREAT!!!!!!
I may spend this afternoon crying because I can ride.
And, my conception of what constitutes a beautiful bike may have just changed entirely.