With the Mayan apocalypse now firmly behind us, it feels a little safer to come up out of the RKP survival shelter into the rain-swept, gray-light of a new day. And as these trying times slouch toward the New Year, I find myself looking for new sources of hope.

From the Lancepocalypse, which now strikes me as tantamount to a teenage acne problem, to the divisiveness of our national election, the unstoppable force of Hurricane Sandy and then to the reality-warping attack in Connecticut and the “fiscal cliff,” it feels easy, just lately, to sit and wonder what the hell is wrong with us collectively.

To quote Marvin Gaye, “What’s going on?”

As a bike person, I take great comfort in the sure knowledge that, no matter what happens out in the larger world, I can mostly pedal my way to a better (mental) place. And so when I’ve cast about in search of some sign that the apocalypse isn’t actually nigh and come up empty, I look to my garage for evidence that things will get better.

I guess I do it like anyone fortunate enough to have a thing called a garage. I hang my bikes from hooks, rear wheel up and evenly spaced, right in a line down one wall, and just seeing them dangling there stirs something warm in my chest.

Hung there (and carefully aligned, if only after the garage’s quarterly cleaning) they seem so perfect. In their inert state, I am not yet riding them badly. Striving and straining and second-guessing aren’t happening. Their energy accrues potentially, each bike limning the happiness still to come.

The kids’ bikes hang in between mine, their shorter wheel-bases making them perfect for space-filling. And there too I see deep wells of potential energy, future me on my road bike slowly slaloming behind one or both of my boys as they thrash away at their plastic platform pedals. This is idealized familial bliss, the making of memories to be cherished in advance. I find I need this theoretical future positive when the careening present seems at its most chaotic and dark.

Phrases like “stay in the moment” and “be here now” have all kinds of new-agey currency at the moment, and certainly as a general rule, it seems best not to dwell too long on the past nor to obsess too much about a theoretical future. But what is hope made of if not the notion of a better tomorrow, and what image conveys the feeling of that incipient change in our fortunes quite as well as a bicycle, cleaned and ready to roll?

Image: Matt O’Keefe

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  1. Andrew

    There is something comforting about staring at bikes in a garage. I switched out my spds for flat pedals this am on my new gravel bike (heading to northern mn for vacation and want to wear my sorels). Spent a while contemplating the esthetics of flat pedals on a ti gravel bike, at 4am. Seeing it lined up next to the other bikes gave me lots of ideas for winter riding. The reveries always seem to omit the inevitable misery…

  2. SteveP

    Yeah, the bike garage (or basement) is a good spot to uncomplicate the day… maybe a little tuning while brewing the coming season’s big rides. Good stuff.

    btw You can hang Mo’s sleds in my garage anytime.

  3. Author

    @All – To be clear, the photo above is a picture of someone else’s basement, taken by my friend Matt. Matt is a far better photographer than I am, so I use his shots whenever I can. To paraphrase David Byrne, those are not my expensive wheels. These are not my beautiful bikes…

  4. armybikerider

    I love staring at bicycles and images of bicycles. I love the symmetry, the pleasing geomtery, the technical details of the construction, the colors chosen….but most of all it’s the potential; the feelings that I know will come with the next ride, the feelings of tired satisfaction from hard effort that the bicycle represents, the joy of exploration and discovery, the mental state achieved when riding.

    Next time my wife looks over my shoulder when I’m on the computer staring at a Baum Corretto, or a vintage Colnago Mexico or any 2-wheeled machine that’s caught my attention, instead of explaining, I’ll show her your writing!

  5. Jesus from Cancun

    As a cultural brief:

    The ancient Mayas never predicted an apocalypse. While Europe believed that the world was created in a snap, was flat, the center of everything, and was going to end in a snap after a judgment day, the Mayas had figured out our place in the solar system and the visible universe.

    They were amazing astronomers, and were able to predict eclipses, plantet alignments, the passing of periodic comets, and other cyclic astronomical events.

    For the Mayas, time did not have a beginning nor an end. It was all cycles that renewed again and again. And they developed simultaneous calendars for 260 days, and another one for 365 days, with an extra day added every 4 years. These two matched every 52 years in a longer cycle that was anticipated and celebrated as a once in a lifetime event.

    But they also observed a 5,125 year cycle, and a 26,000 year cycle. Both of these matched on December 21, 2012.

    There are spiritual, astronomical and astrological reasons for the Mayan calendar to be designed to “end” on the winter solstice of 2012. Some of these reasons are highly debatable, especially since almost all the Mayan scripts were destroyed during the Spanish conquest, and much of what is said and written is pure conjecture and faith.

    Most experts agree that they predicted an alignment with the axis of the Milky Way that happens every 26,000 years and designed the calendar as a countdown to this event.

    But the fact is that the Mayas never predicted any kind of apocalypse. There is a stone craving mentioning the arrival of one of their gods at the end of the 13-Baaktun (21 dic ’12) but it is all about a gradual spiritual change, not an apocalypse. And after this date, the 14-Baaktun cycle begins. And Life goes on.

    It is said that whoever started the idea of the Mayan apocalypse knew about the end of the former cycle and associated it with his own biblical ideas of a doomsday and an armageddon. And then, people bought the idea and went on with it. But no, here we are, ready for our own new cycle and a new season, a new beginning after the “Lancepocalypse”.

    Happy Holidays!

  6. Robot

    @Jesus – My apologies. My reference to the Mayan apocalypse was entirely tongue in cheek, but I appreciate your clarification. I’ve been to your “neighborhood” and met Mayans and should have known better than to be so flippant about it.

  7. LesB

    A suggestion to your bike-prolific friend Matt:
    Most bike thefts are from residences. It pays to lock up your bike(s) at home.

  8. Khal Spencer

    Since there were no nearby asteroids on a near earth course and the more authoritative information said there was no “end of the world” implied by the Mayans, I figured the end-of-the-world idea was a product of Christian apocalyptic thought, which is certainly ingrained in a lot of U.S. Christianity, rather than a Mayan prediction. So we can go on riding our bikes.

    As my better half occasionally reminds me, its tough to ride more than one bike, since one has only one hind end. If I had to have only one bike, it would be a ‘cross bike, since those seem to be most versatile. What would be your “only” bike if you had to make such a decision?

  9. Jesus from Cancun

    Oh, no need for an apology, Robot. It’s not that I took it the wrong way; I only thought it would be a good opportunity to brag about the great ancient culture we had, and share some thoughts about the so talked about Mayan calendar.

    Happy holidays!

  10. Eric W

    It does feel nice to have a some space to work on a bike.

    I second the “it pays to lock up your bikes…” there has been a guy working here in SoCal taking just expensive nice bike from garages. That’s the only kind of bikes he steals. My three bikes have Ulocks on ’em to help keep ’em there. You wouldn’t leave one on the street while you went in for coffee would you?

    Just sayin’

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