Comparatively, I’m pretty new to cycling. Its only been recently that I can drag a 26 mile ride out of myself, and 30 miles is my new unicorn – I cannot modify a route enough to get myself there just yet. But I will.
I don’t wear kit when I ride (though, my lower half and my ‘real cyclist’ friends tell me that I should probably look into it), I ride a hybrid with raised handlebars, and because I don’t wear Lycra, I generally look worse for wear than other, more sensibly dressed people. But I love it – I love the ride, I love the freedom, the alone time, the quiet or the chaos, depending on where my ride takes me, and I live in an area versatile enough to get both or either depending on what I want, regardless of my destination. I love to ride with my friends – relaxed and slow, talking about things that are somehow easier to discuss while you have one eye on the doors of parked cars and the potential glass or potholes just waiting to claim your front tire. But, in equal measure, I love to ride alone – to not think or talk. To push until it hurts, and then to find the place where that isn’t important anymore. I ride with road veterans who point out hazards but forget to check if I’m still with them and friends brand new to biking, still looking longingly at the sidewalk, wondering where they went so wrong that they ended up here, trying to find the resolve to take a lane with a red light ahead.
I’ve been riding for just over a year. Before that, I had not ridden since my childhood. I bought myself a bike as a present – a reward for getting my graduate school applications in on time, and questioned the decision every day for a week and a half as I commuted to work in the dark, trying to place myself in my new environment somewhere between the middle of the street and the door zone.
Riding for me, as it is for most of us, is not about only one thing. It saves me alot of time – walking is for suckers. It saves me the hassle of buying and maintaining the car I neither want nor need. It gets me where I need to go, but it also takes me places I would never have seen from a car, and never have walked to. period. It gives me piece of mind, it kicks my ass, it gives me community and new heroes. But it makes me think about context, about being a city dweller, about economics and infrastructure. It makes me question my needs, it makes me pay attention to my body and feel genuinely good about doing whats best for it. It makes me question privilege and it has made me an activist – passively, micro-cosmically. I am not a person who’s hobbies draw people in – often they enjoy watching from a distance or hearing embellished stories after the fact. This is one of the very few times I can bring people into my experience, and share with them something that I love more and more and that grows closer to my heart each time I do it. That, for me, is a truly exciting thing. Almost as exciting as finding the top of some giant hill I accidentally started climbing, and the heart-pounding thrill of seeing the other side.
Someone told me once that I fell somewhere in between a spandex-clad ‘cyclist’ and a hipster. Me and my spandex-less yoga capris, kung-fu t-shirt, sneakers and excessive helmet all feel comfortable dwelling, sweating, dodging, bombing, suffering, reveling and riding in that place.