Is it wrong to view cycling as a protracted struggle against hard edges? Whether it is the blurred, black curve of a front tire spinning its mass into the sharp point of a headwind or our own minds urging us onward against the angularity of stress and fatigue, everything about the bike and riding decries limits, takes the fight to edges.
Hard edges are insidious. They tell us what we can and can not do. They are borders. They are institutions. They are ‘the man.’ Though they masquerade as clean lines delineating spaces, hemming boundaries or giving the cold comfort of black/white contrast, in reality they are only there to break our bones or divide us, one from another, in our meandering grayness.
Against those edges we array rounded tubes, sleek helmet, butter smooth pedal strokes, every piece of our equipment and every nuance of our movement an attempt to be curved, to slip through life with minimal resistance. Freedom and independence aren’t enhanced by lines and angles.
Riding burrs off the edges of our moods and blunts our character defects. We turn emotion into action, the brain rattle of anger and worry, or hope and joy, converted to watts, an EKG into a sine curve, a boat’s sloppy wake becoming the ocean’s gentle swell.
When we put our noses into the wind, the rolling momentum of that front wheel joining the roundness of the headtube cutting the air, or our backs hunched and canted forward, roundnesses meant to break the will of the wind, we are earning our freedom, our fun. Even the metaphorical knives in our back pockets, the triangles of our frames, are flopped on their sides and arranged for aerodynamic effect.
We push at our limits, and what is a limit but a hard edge? Those edges will fill our lungs to bursting and dull our wits when all we want is a slow roll with some friends, a little weekend fun. Is it so much to ask? Of course, the harder we push against all of these resistances the more easily we slip through. We let them erode and abrade us, but only to a better, simpler form, one that catches no wind, engages no conflict, recognizes fewer limits.
The way forward is round. If you find yourself caught up, caught out, frustrated or stifled, find the nearest roundness and bear down on the pedals. It is the only way.
Image: Matt O’Keefe