The bicycle racer may never be on the creative end of the arc of a perfectly shot basketball, transfixed by the swish of ball and net. Or, feel the elusive crack of a well hit baseball, waist high and down the middle when bat and ball connect. The perfect coordination of thought and gesture may be just out of our reach. The finesse of subtle movement, guiding racket to ball, somehow unobtainable. Ours, rather, is the realm of a quiet and determined, mostly misunderstood dance with a silent tempo to the rhythmic tapping of our cadence; the clash of pedal and shoe, industrial chain and sprocket. Bearings and grease, rubber and tarmac. The ever-present wind whistling in our ears, thoughts racing through our minds. Heads barely held aloft, like a swimmer taking a breath.
The cyclist is simultaneously at profound peace on the bike and at the center of a powerful force, the whirring windmill-a perfectly balanced metronome, creating energy as it moves through space. Like a sailboat, powered by an unseen force, hull slicing through the water on the edge of control. We are all of this.
The consciousness of this sport is a deep mystery to me. Yet I am drawn to it because of this and in many ways, in spite of it. Now well past my prime, yet still competing I am becoming more reluctant to ask scientific questions of the sport as I once did when a student of the game. I am no longer interested so much in horsepower or watts or heart rate. Not that it doesn’t matter to me. It does, but in a primitive sense. The way it may matter to a gazelle being chased by a leopard. Yes, I still keep track of my miles ridden, but in a detached way, more like one writes a note on a calendar. My analysis during each race has become instinctual, unencumbered, predatory, primeval. And this has set me free.
It’s a strange relationship we have with the bike. I wash mine before I race like a samurai anoints his sword with sake. Often I find myself humming some forgotten tune. I recently swept out my garage, jettisoned my car to the elements and have placed my bicycle on a small workstand in the center of the floor, a showpiece, if only for me. I spin the wheels holding hub between thumb and forefinger, feeling the bearings. I work the chain through its cog combinations, micro adjusting the play. My bicycle is not a museum piece, though. It is a tool in the most complete sense.
Ritualistic behavior is well documented in man’s search for meaning. For me, my rite of discipline and compassion is for the vehicle that shares in my transcendental voyages taken on sunny afternoons in May and beyond.