Some years ago I realized that my emotional state was not unlike Christmas gift giving; I can only give that which I have. If I buy someone a bicycle, that’s what I can give. That bike won’t magically become a car. My emotions are much the same way; if I’m angry, I don’t have much else to share. If I can manage to fill my heart with gratitude, I’ll spread light everywhere I walk.
I can’t lie, I’ve gone through large chunks of my life depressed, sour, negative. I was insecure of myself, my place in the world, the regard in which I was held. It’s an uncomfortable place to live.
The miracle in this isn’t that I found the bike, it’s that I applied myself to the bike with enough dedication that it opened the world to me in ways that allowed me to see with new eyes. The bike gave me a body I was more at peace with, friends, eventually a whole tribe with which I could identify. All those things were wonderful, but you can have all of those and still be a dark cloud on a sunny day. I’m proof.
But I kept riding. That’s always been the answer. Upset? Go ride. Mad? Do intervals. Hurt? Pedal to the top of a hill and look out on creation. Happy? Go soak in this life.
A few years ago when my newborn son we called The Deuce spent six weeks in the NICU I did my best to remain a neutral presence. I wanted to impart nothing so much as devotion and support. I did what I could to conceal my emotions on a day-to-day basis, and committed my feelings to the keyboard. During that period the bike was less a way to strip away stress than just to recharge my battery so I could go back to the hospital. I had trouble getting my heartrate up. And if someone asked how he was? It was as if I’d suddenly hit my threshold; I was apt to get dropped because the stress would just shut my legs down. I couldn’t even take a deep breath. Even so, I didn’t want to be a drag on anyone else. I’ve no idea if I succeeded.
Years ago, I worked for a recording studio in Memphis. One Sunday night there was a knock at the door. I opened it only to find Al Green (yes, that Al Green) standing there. This wasn’t wholly impossible. It was, after all, a recording studio and he was known to sing. When he stepped in he smiled, said hello and clasped my hand in both of his. It was as beatific a greeting as I’ve received in my life. I’m still willing to swear he glowed with a divine light.
There’s little in my life I admire the way I admired him that night.
I’m not that guy. I’ll likely never be that guy. But that evening remains a sextant to help guide me.
I’m still fearful, sometimes insecure, prone to quick reactions. I accept these as part of my makeup. However, I work against them daily, the same way fitness requires daily riding.
A week in Las Vegas has left me fatigued from all the people down on the Interbike show, cynical about the bike industry, righteously angry about ebikes on the road and trail. I can’t figure why we wouldn’t want more people in cycling. Among my failings is that I’m naturally short on patience, but my lack of patience for this isn’t a quirk of personality. Those of us lucky enough to devote more than an hour or two of our time each week to bicycles are fortunate, full stop. I’ve worked with people in other industries who could make Eeyore look like Al Green. I could be wrong, but I had the suspicion that a bike would have changed things.
I’m at an age where going fast is still fun, even if the fast is less so than it was. Even so, I’m past the point of proving anything. I mean, what could I prove at this point? That I can’t generate 1000 watts in a sprint anymore? It just doesn’t matter that I’m not the fastest guy on the road. Despite my personal limitations, I’m taking an increasing joy in sharing cycling with others. From my boys to new riders I meet, spreading cycling is a way to find a positive even when the ground in my own life is shifting.
I may not have a lot to give, but I can give cycling.
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