Friday Group Ride #422

Friday Group Ride #422

They put my pedals on the rental bike, and I adjusted the saddle height as close as I could figure it before throwing a leg over. Rain-wet sand crunched under the tires, and I was away. Within a minute I could hear a river rushing over rocks and feel the cool sweat of the hyper-green forest.

It had been a dream of mine to ride mountain bikes in Wales, my father’s home country, and so I felt almost giddy with anticipation rolling down the first trails. I wasn’t disappointed, swooping down to a level just above the river and then wheeling past a series of increasingly dramatic waterfalls.

A big part of what I depend on the bike for is escape, and I find, even locally, there are certain symbols of escape that flood mind with the serotonin and dopamine of relieved stress. Waterfalls do that. Rivers generally. Welsh accents help, as do miles of twisting single-track through landscapes one might describe unironically as Middle Earthen.

When I’m home, in New England, I seek out a series of water towers sprinkled through the woods outside Boston, each one marked with various quantities and qualities of graffiti. These remind me of all the graffiti strewn places I adventured to as a kid on my BMX bike, the backs of shopping malls, the broad expanses of concrete storm drains, abandoned buildings in pine woods.

It feels odd to respond to spray paint on concrete in the same way I respond to plunging water in a Welsh ravine, but there you are. The common denominator is escape via bicycle, the kind of get away I’ve organized a lot of my life around.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what are the physical symbols of escape for you? Maybe it’s the parking lot where your group ride meets. Maybe it’s a landmark on a regular ride. Maybe it’s a faraway place you visited once, but visualize every time you’re out on two wheels.

Image: Coed y Brenin

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  1. Fausto

    Couple miles from home where the farms start and the traffic dies down. The smell of cow and horse shit is the smell of freedom.

  2. AG

    There is a large, lone coastal oak tree at the half-way point on one of our fire-road climbs. Somehow it grew out of the dusty, scrubby ridge all alone…there isn’t another tree around for a mile. Its low 30′ canopy provides shade when there isn’t any anywhere else. It is the turn-around point if I am pressed for time. It lets me know I am half-way to Mulholland Drive when I have a few extra hours. Around here it is just called The Tree.

  3. Aar

    For me, there are no physical landmarks. It’s just a sensation or feeling. Specifically, when there is the perfect combination of high cadence spin combined with generous power application. When that’s working and the chain disappears, I’ve fully escaped.

  4. Michael

    Any junction where I turn off my usual commute to work. It can be the start of a road or dirt ride, or just off to a coffee shop to warm my ears in winter. It can be half a block from my house, or a block before work. It is the decision to not do the same thing as every day.

  5. Tominalbany

    Any ride, or activity, that isn’t taking me to responsibility.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to have a well-paying, full-time job. I love having a home and family, even if the home is hoovering up all of my free time lately.

    But, when I can just ‘turn away’ from it all for a brief time to enjoy life. THAT’S escape.

  6. Dan C

    In the Texas Hill Country, it is cattle guards and low water crossings. Both are hazards that can take you down, but they are indicators that you have found a quiet back road. Escape is at hand.

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