What is it we search for when we ride a bike? By the time someone has decided that cycling is for them, is a church befitting their meditations, their prayers, they’ve been devoted to the sport for years. So the answer to that question is different if you’ve been riding for a few months than if you’ve been riding for decades. By the time you’ve turned 10,000 miles, the polish has been rubbed to patina. It’s nearly impossible to find new from your front door. Fresh requires a different area code, if not a different state.
Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
So what is it that keeps us rolling that chain? We find ourselves on the road; the asphalt runs beneath our wheels and gives us a chance to shut off the incessant I. What we learn out there isn’t about the arc a bike carves in a turn or how fast we can accelerate. We know those truths are as relative as the weather. What we learn is often only helpful after we get off the bike.
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
It’s easy to lose track of what life is. Life isn’t the job. It’s not the house. It’s not the car or any of the bikes. Life can be found in those moments that make you stop and focus on the second at hand. It’s the birth of a child, saying “I do,” looking into that corner before you shoot through, sans brakes.
Look up here, man, I’m in danger
I’ve got nothing left to lose
The thing about the bike is that it gives us a chance to focus on a second at a time, to remind us of how fleeting time is, how quickly a whole day can pass.
Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me
We like to say we feel alive when we’re on the bike. It shakes us from our walking slumber. As we feel the pull of gravity, we are forced to focus; there’s no multitasking, no phones, no ping of new email. It’s you. The road. The spinning wheels. That’s enough to sharpen your senses. And that’s all we need to be reminded of how brief is our visit.
Lyrics from David Bowie’s “Lazarus” reprinted without permission.