It’s spring, even if the vestiges of winter still cling to life in some parts of the world. The snow is melting, the temperature rising, and as if the earth is undergoing renovation, its flora will soon be awash in color and texture. Indeed, spring is a time of renewal, but not just for nature: we fauna, too, are enlivened by a life unencumbered by winter’s bite.
One of my close friends recently purchased his first road bike, which for us cyclists is one of the best ways to inaugurate spring. There’s almost nothing more enjoyable than taking a new machine out on the roads for the first time and feeling how it handles, particularly after being cooped up indoors all winter and before summer’s oppressive heat sets in.
He’ll go on group rides, ride alone, find his favorite routes, discover that arm and knee warmers are a cyclist’s best friends, and giddily anticipate the next ride while dropping off his daughter at daycare, sitting through work meetings, or doing household chores.
Cycling will further permeate necessity and end up ordering daily obligations around its singular imperative: to ride.
Internet geek-outs over all things cycling will become routine. Terms like gruppetto, paceline, spinning out, pavé, soigneur, tops, drops, bidon, hammer,LBS and peloton will seep into his vocabulary, increasing his fluency in the velocipede language.
And his devotion will physically manifest itself in legs and lungs: he’ll get faster, leaner, go farther, and build fitness to where he’ll barely break a sweat on rides that were previously exhausting.
Yet, all progression and renewal are in some manner marked by destruction.
Just as boundaries are destroyed when we push beyond our limits, we are occasionally destroyed in attempting to overcome our limitations.
He’ll bonk, he'll fall off the back of the group, and he may even fail to complete rides.
And he'll crash. There will be blood. Hopefully, the damage to his person and bicycle won't be too serious. Still, the irritation and soreness caused by impact and lost swaths of skin on elbows, knees, arms, shoulders and other body parts instills a palpable fear that fazes our certainty in our ability to corner at speed, or even to pedal our bikes up to speed, manage traffic, descend, or any number of elements native to our sport.
Some pieces of clothing may become unwearable, to be discarded. His handlebars may need new tape, his wheels trued, brakes adjusted, things straightened. With every bump in the road his injuries will pulse, shooting a pain through the affected area, causing him to adjust his weight accordingly.
That is, if he rides at all; the mental wounds exact the highest tolls.
But I hope he does. I hope he remembers the joy that begins every ride, the odd solace of suffering in- rhythm to exasperated breaths, and the satisfaction in just spinning through tree-lined streets with the sun peeking through and the wind whirring past.
I hope he remembers why he fell in love.