Reflections on a bike ride

The thrill of riding my bike begins with the anticipation as I change into my cycling clothes. I bound out the door and down the back steps toward the garage, feeling excitement at the touch of sun on my face, the wind in my hair, knowing that I am in for a holistic experience that enlivens every part of me: the sensual, emotional, physical, spiritual, and the intellectual. I cannot know what unique moments I will encounter, but I am certain they will include some mix of reverie, enlightenment, connection, satisfaction, challenge, exertion, joy, delight, pleasure, and discovery.

Automatically, I reach for the 12-speed road bike, wanting to satisfy my need for speed. I smile as I put my thumb to the tires and note that they are sufficiently inflated and I need not pause to pressurize  them. Donning helmet, gloves and fanny pack with water bottles, I walk my wheels to the edge of the street. There I lightly hop aboard, slide my left shoe into the toe clip, press down on the right pedal, and grin as I take flight.

I zip down my street, slow through the stop sign, and down the next block, enjoying the rhythm of my pedals, feeling the shift in my breath and heartbeat. Hanging a right onto Occoquan Road, I queue up in the traffic lined at the red light at Horner Road. Slightly warmed up, I stretch while I wait for the light to change, paying most attention to my upper torso and arms, remembering that cycling tends to close this area, and I need to make sure I counteract it to avoid another injury.

Having ridden this route perhaps 200 times in the past year, I know the sequence of the traffic light well, and my left foot is on the pedal before the light changes to green. As the surge of traffic rolls forward like a wave, I am quickly passed by the four-wheeled flow, and for a moment my mind touches on the thought that I am not at all nervous in this rush. Keenly aware, yes, but not afraid like I was 12 months ago. In that thought I see a metaphor for my life.

The bank of cars passes and I have a stretch of Occoquan road to myself. Still hugging the shoulder for safety and good habit, I slide into 12th gear, press hard on the pedals, and take off. Remarkably, happily, the light at Rt. 1 turns green as I approach the intersection, and I sail on through it and start up the short hill on the other side. Immediately, I notice how I my ability has slackened over the winter; it takes more effort to climb the hill than it did last fall. I downshift to 6th as my momentum slows, feeling a little tired at the crest of the hill, but there mustering the energy to make the descent as thrilling as I can.

Slipping back into 12th gear, I stand on the pedals for a few strokes, then hunker down and pedal as fast as I can down the hill on Dawson Beach Road. The warm rays of the late winter sun on my skin are rippled by the coolness of the wind–nature’s wind, and the apparent wind I create with my body and my machine. The barely bearable “lightness of being” swells within me, and I heed the impulse to cry out, “YES!” This primordial prayer of thanksgiving rises from my chest and into the wind- the breath of the Universe. Crude and unadorned, it flies direct from my core and joins the breath of the Universe, where, I am certain, it is received with the same Grace as any elegant psalm.

(C) 2007, 2011 by  Shay Seaborne. All rights reserved.

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