On Freedom and Bicycles

I grew up in the generation that knew bicycles and the unparalleled freedom that they offered during those years before we were old enough to drive a car. Streets were safer. Towns more easily accessible, and I spent many a summer gone from dawn to dusk on those mysterious adventures common to boys of a certain age. My mother didn’t have to worry and I was free to explore beaches and waterways and neighborhoods as the day moved me.

I bought a car, went to college, got a job, started a family and bicycling became a fond, youthful memory. I didn’t ride again until well into my 30s and this was primarily due to the influence of a good friend who was a bicycle enthusiast of uncommon devotion. After that first ride I wondered how I had ever let it slip away from me.

There is something eminently satisfying, at least for me, in riding a bicycle. There is the feel of the wind in my face. There is the semi-hypnotic motion of my feet on the pedals, the rhythmic circular repetition that eats up the miles when the road is flat and the sun shines warm upon my back. Not separated from the scenery around me by metal and glass, I can smell my surroundings (usually a good thing), feel the elements and be able to say something pleasant to those I’m passing by.

The sheer physical exercise of it feels good. And in deference to my friends regarding “being in the moment,” there is a transcendence during these moments spent riding that is actively in the moment even as it transcends those moments into something approaching the sublime. It is a mental cleansing that washes away daily worries and cares – at least for the duration of that refreshing journey between two points in space and time.

I mostly ride trails, bike paths and back country roads. I’m not an urban cyclist,  spandex-clad racer, nor cross-country marathoner- just a  simple rider in ordinary clothing feeling once again the freedom of his youth.

And that, more than anything, is the gist of this simple pleasure for me. For those brief moments when I’m riding, I’m free from the ordinary in some dimly understood fashion. I skim the ground, neither of earth nor heaven, but passing alongside in some parallel dimension, suspended by two wheels spinning through time and space as the earth itself spins the clock of my life and my days…

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