Just once recently I reached out and touched the third rail of cycling discourse with a post about a rider whose name I shall not mention here. The results ought to have been predictable enough, a chain of comments, some supportive, many critical, some baldly dismissive, that let me know that I had missed my mark. I have tried over the last year to leave certain topics for smarter, better-informed, less sensitive souls, but sometimes I become too enamored with my own ideas and keyboard blast something out into the universe better left rattling around the echo-y outer ramparts of my brain.
The great benefit of making mistakes, of course, is in the lessons imparted. Pain motivates change, as my old counselor often told me. And so the past weeks have been good as I have refocused on the good things in my cycling life, minding my own business, turning over the pedals, tuning up the machine, planning the next project, riding thoughtfully and using the sport to connect with the like-minded.
RKP is an important part of that equation. Here I try to write about my personal experiences in a way that readers can identify with, to share something even if we’ve not met, not ridden together. To me, RKP is another saddle to sit in, a coffee shop, church basement or veterans hall, a humble place to gather with those trying to live the same, better life. I come here for connection not conflict.
Is there a point to conflict? I ask that sincerely, not sarcastically. Does conflict enrich our lives? Is there some process whereby it draws us together, a joining by fire, or is that only true if we take the time to resolve our conflicts in some meaningful way?
I have very (self)consciously here mentioned church basements and veteran’s halls. Though I count myself an atheist, I retain a belief that the quality of my life is directly proportional to the strength of my spiritual connection to the world around me. In this context, spiritual just means unseen, the bonds between friends, the connection we feel to our physical and natural surroundings. Where I forge those connections can vary, but their strength and quality is usually the arbiter of my happiness.
I try to avoid conflict without being a doormat, to accept the things I can not change, as the saying goes, and to forgive as readily as I can, not because this behavior comes easily, but because it seems to produce the best results. Rather than argue, rather than swear and threaten and complicate, it is usually better just to ride away, to choose a different route next time.
For some, these might be trying times in the cycling world, far away events stirring emotions, emotions coming out every which way. It is always tempting to express my opinion, to make a particularly pointy point, but invariably I only exacerbate a conflict that isn’t mine to begin with. I don’t have to do that. I can change.
It is useful to remind myself that, both through riding my bike and writing about it, I am trying to connect with my world. Neither activity, much as I love it, has any real resonance without that connection. When I court conflict on the bike or at the keyboard, I am failing in my basic mission. I am missing the point.
I am not a religious person, but I retain a faith that, by doing these simple things, I can move forward, pedal over pedal, inch-by-inch into each day, in the saddle, at the coffee shop, in a church basement or in a veteran’s hall. And that is what I mean to do.
Image: Matt O’Keefe