A chat from the bike

President Bush took seven journalists on a ride around his Crawford, Texas ranch on Saturday. He spoke with them before the ride. Here are a few excerpts of that interview.

Published August 14, 2005

President Bush: We'll take a look at the countryside, come back, and that'll put us at about eight-and-a-half miles or so. And then we'll go down in these canyons and we can fool around on some trails. And for the unbelievably fit, there are some great mountains, little climb-outs that you're welcome to do -- I may join you; I may not join you.

I love the outdoors. If I'm not exercising here, I'll be fishing over there. If I'm not fishing, I'll be working with the chainsaw. I really enjoy being outside, and mountain biking is a way for me to spend a fair amount of time -- four or five days a week -- outdoors. I love exercise. Prior to learning about mountain biking, I was a jogger. And then, like a lot of baby boomers, my knees gave out. And I believe that mountain biking is going to be an outlet for a lot of people my age. I'm 59, and people are going to realize you get as much aerobic exercise -- if not more on the mountain bike -- without being hobbled.

I like speed. Again, it's not a race, but there's something exhilarating about heading down a hill at 25 mph on a mountain bike -- or trying to grind up a hill at 9 mph on a mountain bike. (Laughter.)

Question: Mr. President, you probably have the most stressful job in the world. And, yet, with your busy schedule, you make time to exercise. For Americans whose jobs are not as stressful as yours, what can you -- do you have any advice for them, for making time?

Bush: I do. I think it's -- first of all, it doesn't take that much to get some good exercise. If people were to walk 20 minutes a day, the incidence of heart disease would go down significantly. What people have got to understand is when you get into an exercise routine, your habits begin to change: your eating habits change, your sleeping habits change, your coffee habits change, your cigarette habits change.

I mean, exercise for me has been good preventive medicine. And it is a part of living a disciplined life. And I would hope Americans would exercise. Part of my responsibility as the president is to try to set a good example, and exercising on a -- I exercise six times a week; if I'm not mountain biking, I'll be on the elliptical machine or lifting weights. And it just doesn't take that much time. What it takes is organization and discipline and setting priorities. And I think exercise ought to be one of the top priorities for Americans.

And people will begin to realize, if they were to, say, get on a mountain bike, what a great -- what a fantastic opportunity it is to see the countryside, or to go to a beautiful part of your county where you live, and explore in a way that you wouldn't be able to do normally.

Q: Sir, you said you've been riding for almost two years now. Have you given any thought to encouraging Americans to use bicycles as basic transportation? I mean, it's a way to solve so many problems that we face.

It's more fun than running, isn't it?

Bush: I think it is. I was an avid runner, but there's -- first of all, you can't get -- at Camp David there's a hill that we go down and get up to about 32 mph.

Q: Your shorts are torn there, Mr. President. Tell us about that.

Bush: This is the Scottish incident. (Laughter.) I was riding the golf course at the G8 and -- I'm sure you've had this experience where, at the end of a ride you get this sense of -- "euphoria" is not the ride word, but you relax. And relaxing on a mountain bike ...

Q: Endorphin rush.

Bush: Yes. And it's not a good thing to do on a mountain bike, is to relax. (Laughter.) And I was flying. I say "flying" -- it was flat, a little bit downhill and it was wet asphalt. And I guess there was a little layer of something on the surface and all I know is my bike went out from underneath me and we hit. I would strongly urge people to wear helmets on mountain bikes. I've hit my head two or three times. I would also urge people, once they hit their head, to replace their helmet.

But this tear is from the Scottish bike -- I'm not wearing it as a trophy. (Laughter.) And the agent behind me went down. And somehow the bike -- I was down on the ground and the bike went up and hit a policeman. And we've been in touch with him, he's fine.

Q: Do you have now in your possession, or have you ever had a pair of form fitting lycra shorts?

Bush: No, I have not, and probably won't have them. (Laughter.) I mean, there are certain things that age brings with it, and not wearing the form fitting lycra short is one of them, if you know what I mean. (Laughter.)

Q: Road bikers also have a tendency to shave their legs, which is ...

Bush: No, I'm pretty much into the ranch mountain biking thing, which, we don't tend to do that here.

All right, let's go have fun. This will be great. Again, hang in there and do not force the President too hard. Be kind. Then afterwards we'll have a good visit.