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it is that I miss so much when I am stuck here, unable to ride my bike. Even as I currently am, reduced to short, elbow-aggravating sorties every other day.
Most bike riders, I think, would suggest at these times that they miss the buzz of exercise; the sensations of sweating, the feeling of breathing deeply whilst your heart pounds out of your chest. I do miss the satisfaction of being fit, lean and knowing everything is working pretty well (you know your body a lot better when its condition is the focal point of your life). I don’t miss fitness too much because I know it will be back, I know the extra two kilos that have crept up on me will be worked off, I know the muscles that seem to have forgotten that they ever had a job have rolled out their beach towel and dozed off to sleep. But inevitably, I will work them back to strength. I like the satisfaction of the hard work, but I don’t miss it.
It’s not the competition I miss either. But then, I have raced and journeyed enough in my life now to appreciate the break. Plus, if I need a really competitive time we can always go to the park with the girls. If you thought being part of the peloton was fierce, try playing boules with girls on a calm summer afternoon. There is, of course, a little element of camaraderie that I miss, not being out on top of the Mendips with a few mates on my bike does bother me a bit, but we still catch up at the coffee shop, or the bar, or wherever. What with most of my mates being bike riders anyway, I don’t miss out on that social element. I just miss out on those moments when you are convinced, in your slightly fatigued state, that the ‘friend’ you are riding with really wants to hurt you.
It took me a while to work out exactly what it was that I was missing. During the time that I haven’t been able to ride the weather has been great, there have been plenty of visitors to Bristol; parties, picnics, occasions, a lengthy visit from my lady and all sorts of Pimm’s related fun. But in this, a practically unheralded dream world for me in a normal cycling season, I knew my unsettled heart was missing something.
it was today though, while I sat alone waiting for my injured housemate outside the plastic surgery ward. More than anything else I miss the most basic and simplistic essence of the bicycle; I miss the freedom.
I had always thought talk of the ‘freedom’ that the bicycle allows you, was peasant talk, taken straight from the pages of a biography of a poor boy who made good by riding his delivery bike further and further into the hills until finally he won France’s most prestigious amateur race on it. Or the wistful poetic musings of the current crop of the peloton’s self appointed renaissance men, who can’t describe a race without saying how ‘beautiful’ everything from the dirt to the manhole covers along the roads were.
But, that is exactly what I miss. The rides I spend alone, where the physical rhythm of riding allows my brain to relax into its most useful and creative state, the hours I spend going through albums on my iPod and listening, really listening to them, the endless myriad of thoughts and ponderings that go on during the splendid isolation that the bike gives me.
Part of something and yet part of nothing, I love riding alone, I love the view it gives me, I love the thoughts I chase myself around the countryside with, and then discard on the cutting room floor. I think I love the distance too, it’s a really simple thing, and I always know where I am and exactly how far from home I am, and how long it will take me to get anywhere. I love the fact that I get to distance myself from where I dwell the rest of the time.
When I can’t ride my world noticeably shrinks, and even though it’s a pretty cool world to hang out in, I like to be able to slip away and take myself off for a while. It’s certainly not the only reason I ride, but it’s one I’m looking forward to appreciating again very soon.
Go easy, step lightly, stay free – The Clash
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