By Selene Yeager
Bicycling Magazine August 1st, 2012
Sometimes the circles come slowly, forcing me to meticulously push and pull my legs around, willing them through a real-time physics lesson of overcoming inertia and gaining momentum. It’s the worst when I’ve been sitting at my desk for hours, progressively tilting forward into the screen as if lured by poltergeists, searing my retinas with white rectangular windows scattered with words, thoughts, scientific studies, and news of the day. On those days it’s like trying to start a long neglected lawn mower. Pull, push….c’mon….oh…so close…try again.
I guess I could just turn around, say, “Nope. Not today.” But I know better. Push, pull, spin around. Push, pull, spin around. They loosen and lighten as the blood and synovial fluids begin to flow freely. The lightening travels upward. Insides, knotted from the work and worries of the day, unravel. My shoulders relinquish their grip from around my ears. My scattered brainwaves entrain into a focused, nearly meditative flow.
Other days, the rhythm comes quickly as my legs spring up and down and around the pedals like uncrated puppies finally let out to play. There’s no coaxing to get going, only to stop when the clock and calendar tell me that it’s time to channel the seemingly bottomless flow of energy into the daily to-dos of laundry, dishes, and deadlines.
On many days, the rhythm takes on a life of its own, drifting into a sublime state of autopilot. Muscles, steeped in the memories of what feels like a million miles, simply respond to the tilt of the earth, the pressure of the wind, or the pace of the pack. My mind sits back, a contented passenger, silently solving that story I was hopelessly stuck on just minutes before, while my body exhausts itself to the point where it is willing, maybe even eager, to sit and be still.
I sometimes wonder about the riders who can put down their bikes for days, months, sometimes seasons at a time. “I used to ride,” they say. “But…” You can fill in the blank with any number of reasons, be it time, work, family, or simply loss of desire, like falling out of a tepid affair. Do they long to press against their pedals and feel the power of their muscles pushing out the ordinary of the day? Or was cycling to them just another part of the ordinary rather than the extraordinary?
I think those of us who continue to turn our pedals ride because we have to and are reminded by the rewards every time we do.