What has the bike taught you? What is it that keeps you going when you’re on the rivet, in the red, on the limit?
The bicycle can be a difference engine. You move its pedals. It yields information. It’s a tool for taking you to that place right at the edge of what you’re capable of, forces you to acknowledge your limits, like a spoonful of castor oil for the soul. As we push on into the suffering we learn more and more about who we are. We become more comfortable with paradox and uncertainty. We gain more specific data about the mathematical location of our breaking points.
Your bits of wisdom included some real gems this week. Everyone said something I could identify with. The ones that stuck out for me were:
randomactsofcycling said: “Success is a consequence and should never be a goal.”
James said: “I can exceed the limits I think I have.”
dacrizzow:” I HAVE NO CHOICE. For whatever reason, it motivates me in all of my life activities, and i don’t question it.”
Mike: “Cycling has taught me patience, perseverance, humility, self control, and to appreciate (beauty, limits, strength, solitude and friendship, the little things).”
Amityskinnyguy: “It has taught me that it’s OK to act like a kid sometimes.”
I like to get all philosophical about it and try to string a bunch of pretty words together, but another thing the bike has taught me, especially when I’m straining at the leash, is to take myself much, much less seriously.
I am not fast. I am not strong. I am not cool. I am not PRO. These are truths that help me in the rest of my life as well.
I am not smart. I am not strong. I am not cool. I am not special. I’m just one more bozo on a bike, trying to stay upright, just trying to get where I’m going. Leave it to a human-powered vehicle to help you feel more human.
And suffering is a like a foreign country. It’s not really comfortable, and you don’t want to stay forever, but it’s good to know what it’s like there, if only so you can appreciate home. You come back with good stories. And espresso on your breath.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
You guys astound me. You floor me. I mean, really. I write a Group Ride soliciting comments about your favorite pair of sweaty, old gloves or a pair of shorts that doesn’t bind or chafe. And what do you do? You give me stuff like this:
Clarity. After a certain amount of miles the head clears and non-bike world again becomes manageable. Work (the work that pays the bills) is a reasonable task instead of a chore. Miles on the bike give me the best accessory, a life. – Erik
OK, so that totally fails the test in that life is not an actual accessory. If it was we’d all have one, and let’s be honest, most of us don’t.
Along the same lines, there was this:
What I love about cycling that is-not-the-bike is the fatigue of the legs and the lightness of being after a long and hard ride. All my everyday worries and problems are gone for that moment. What else there is to like? Kids cheering at the roadside and and bad Belgian roads. Really the worse they get the more pai…fun it is. – Cthulu
I liked WVCycling’s bit about fresh pavement too. Here in New England, where the winter turns our black top into a total freaking moonscape every year, fresh paving is a gift from the cycling gods, and of course the Department of Public Works.
And of course, Soleur is always good for something like this:
Whats to like not-the-bike…..
-the summer sun rising off the east horizon
-the effortless spin in summer, as the bitterness of winter is all gone
-the dogs that chase me, that are smiling, and we race to the corner each morning
-how the k’s just roll over and over and over, instead of slowly ticking one by one
-sounds of nothing
-long and late evening rides where the wind dies down, kids are playing, and life is abundant around as you spin through a neighborhood
-the salt on the bibs and feel of the unzipped jersey
-girls that yell out the window sexy..sexy, then mention ‘its an ole man’
-everyone not-the-bike asking if your gonna ride in ‘the tour’
You know, I’m a sucker for all that philosophical crap. I really, really am. I even have a degree in philosophy, just to prove how very serious and intellectual I am. And I’m grateful to you guys for making the Group Ride so much fun. But, like I said before, you all failed. The rest of you, the ones who mentioned saddles and embro and arm warmers and pedals and shoes and power meters, you got back to the parking lot first (that’s how you win a Group Ride, right?).
The bad news is, you’re all sweaty and you neglected to stop and drink an espresso at the turn around or a beer at the top of the climb. You’re fast, and you’re legs smell nice, but…next time, boys. Next time.
Image: Bibliotheque Nationale de France