I used to, egotistically, receive such words as confirmation of how fit and above average I was as a rider, and how sluggardly and out of shape were the sayers. But now I have a deeper understanding of the perspective of many of these folks. Some days, just walking 50 feet or less can feel overwhelming to me, after such a heroic effort I need to sit and rest. I attended my wife and daughters to the park recently. It was about a hundred feet from the parking space to the playground—that’s nothing to most folks, but to me it felt like an immense effort. I got to the edge of the play area and sat and watched my daughters play. I had no gumption to join them at even the most rudimentary level by merely climbing a few rungs on the slide. My wife asked if I wanted to join her for a walk, I rolled my eyes assuming she was joking… next thing I know she was gone and later returned after completing the 1 mile stroll around the paved path at the park—then my daughters RAN around the loop!! I dragged my weary bones from the timber curb I was perched on to a picnic bench to wait out their return. I’m not kidding, it was truly overwhelming to me just getting back to the car. Settling into the passenger seat feeling like I was made of lead, I thought of my poor grandfather who lived well into his nineties. “Geez,” I thought. “I might only be halfway to dead… how much more worn out will I feel with each passing decade?”
BUT, put me on a bike and suddenly I’m the energizer bunny. When I ride with “the boys”, which generally happens 3 times per week, we usually ride 50 – 80 miles, usually over pretty hilly terrain, and usually average around 20mph. Yes, I get plenty exhausted racing up the climbs or sprinting to be the first to the various town limit signs we contest, but after a few minutes of recovery I’m ready to pound the pedals for many more miles. I get tired on a bike, but not weary.
So I wonder… am I missing some vital member such that I need a bicycle to compensate so I can lead a normal life—like someone who has tragically lost part of their body and needs an artificial something-or-other fabricated by engineers and artists to help them lead “normal” lives? Is my bike my prosthetic?
Or does riding on a bicycle change me somehow, causing me to be better when in contact with it… a catalyst… like the antithesis of the relationship of Kryptonite and Superman?
Or am I inspired somehow by the flight-like freedom of such rapid self-propelled transit, that I forget to be weary, and rise beyond my own status quo (that’s Latin!) to push the limits of my endurance? Is my bike my muse?
I don’t know the answer, but now I wonder if many of the very people that have been amazed by my bicycling exploits might also be transformed if only somehow I could convince them that I’m not just making this all up in order to sell bikes.
As the slogan says “Change the World. Change You. Ride a Bike.”