Different Places

September 3, 2014

Approaching the top of a relatively steeper climb in the first half of today’s ride, a couple of side streets up ahead of me another cyclist curved off of his road and onto “mine”, entering the path ahead of me and joining the climb, in the same southerly direction. I was finding my lower gears about this point and starting to grind up the remainder, and seeing his lithe figure ahead slashing from left to right as he drove into the incline, widening the gap, triggered an intuitive chase response. In that very-familiar instant in which you inventorize your legs and your lungs for the pursuit, I realized I probably wasn’t catching this guy. It’s ok, I told myself. He & I are at different places in our rides. And, judging purely on his physique versus mine, we are probably at different places in our fitness.

Different places. That’s really the essence of cycling, isn’t it? It is a multi-level metaphor for what lies at the heart of the passion.

On the purely physical, there is obviously movement. One of my favorite aspects of cycling versus, say, walking or running – you can just see more stuff, get more places, faster.

In the context of mental presence, cycling has an uncanny ability to transport you to different places both within the context of THIS ride and within the broader context. The Verve song “Bitter Sweet Symphony” has the line, “I’m a million different people from one day to the next.” I very often feel this is a good characterization of the variety to be had in a single bike ride.

If we can forgive ourselves a hoity-toity foray into the philosophical and spiritual, the bike also has a preternatural ability to facilitate the transport of your soul, spirit, whatever you like, to different places than our workaday reality, and not infrequently, to different places than you were aware existed or were accessible to you. In the challenge, in the grind, in the pain, in the work, you find a toughness you didn’t know was there, and you find a hunger for more that you didn’t suspect you had. You find aspects of yourself and your relationship to the world which you can apply to many things off of the saddle.

This evening, in that brief fight-or-flight moment of decision – to pursue or not to pursue – I relaxed and let my ride unfold, as they are wont to do, almost with a will of its own. Roller after roller, sweeping curved incline after fast downhill, my fast-improving fitness was written on the canvas of two wheels on pavement. This ride, glorious as most of them are, was a reassuring reminder that my riding style continues to expand, with more tools appearing in the toolkit. One thing is for sure: I’m on my way to a different place.


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