I believe in cycling. I believe that the act of riding is immeasurably important to my well-being, both physically and mentally. I have spent, literally, my last dollar on my bicycle. Several times. I have skipped out on class to go for a ride. Several times. I have been hit by cars, and hit them in turn. I have wrecked, drawn blood, twisted joints and spent weeks too sore to move, and, should the memories fade, I have scars to remind me. I believe that, despite these things – or, perhaps because of them – cycling is my passion.
I remember the stories my father told about riding across the country. Stories about the time he lost his four front teeth after being run off the road by a sheriff that thought he looked like a hippie. About the freedom of having only a blanket, a map, and some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a trip of several days. I remember wanting to feel that. Then I got my first bike – a red, fixed gear. I rode it up and down the back country roads around our house and I haven’t stopped.
Last year, my father and I rode to the Grand Canyon in Pennsylvania. It was a trip of about one hundred miles. We took it slow, talking along the way, stopping to refill our water bottles. He is 53 years old and I was concerned about his ability to finish, but he has been riding for longer than I have been alive, and I think he had a better time of it than I.
Today, my bicycle is the only thing of value that I own. I ride it everywhere – to class, to the bars, to the supermarket. Many people are incredulous when they hear that I don’t have a car. I had one, but I sold it. Almost everything I need is on the bike.
When I ride, the concerns of my life fade away. I concentrate on cresting the next hill, ignoring the pain in my legs and my aching lungs. I concentrate on racing downhill and hitting the apex of the next curve in a break between cars. The time I spend riding, I leave behind my apprehension over finding a job, my dissatisfaction over the last exam, my frustration over problems at work. I am just riding.
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