Saturday, September 28, 2013

giving bikeface

     it's a new year.  of course, not according to any calendar, but, i bought a new computer for my bike yesterday.  that means i start all over again in logging miles.  this morning, the computer was set at zero.  it signaled a fresh new start.  
     this morning, i added air to my tires so i can add miles to my bike, to my legs, to my heart. 
     i set out with one small goal:  get 20 miles in today no matter how it happens.... whether or not i ever have bikeface, i was going out.  tired of not riding, of missing out on rides, waiting to make plans with friends, tired of finding excuses not to ride.  tired of choosing work over riding.  tired.  just tired....
     so i head out to a hike and bike trail that circles a small airport 5 miles from my house.  the route is immediately uphill, and then a long 3 miles downhill toward the river (and then back up, i add) to where the airport and the trail are.  the rail trail is like most: wide, flat, bordered by trees and hedges, and full of people. 

long flat and straight, perhaps the only place like this in cincy.

     it's a beautiful saturday morning.  sunny, 75 degrees, no wind.  couples are walking and biking and running and strolling with children, small airplanes are taking off from the airport.
     it feels like a new home in a way i haven't yet felt.  

small airplanes lined up at the hangar, reminiscent of boats in the docks in saugatuck, mi.
but i notice something is wrong.
     people are out here on this beautiful day, and no one is smiling.  every single person i see looks so serious, pensive, or just blank.  i was especially saddened to see so many people on bikes frowning and overworking and clearly not having fun.
     i checked in on myself.  was i one of them?  what must i have been showing them? 
     did i have bikeface?  was i too serious?  i realized that i had started out feeling weak and out of shape, barely able to hold a 17mph pace, which used to be easy for me a few months ago.... starting to become discouraged...
     i decided that i better stop paying attention to my own disappointments in my own cycling, and find a way to focus my attention elsewhere.  to let off the gas of my own unreasonable expectations for a moment... 
     so, i launched an experiment during my second loop around the airport (8 miles of flat rail trail partially shaded and full of people).
     i put on my bikeface (by now, it didn't feel like it had to be put on, by the way, as after a few miles, even after being off the bike for nearly 3 weeks, even though i was slow and not the rider i hoped i was, it didn't take long for me to feel bikeface).
     i decided to say hello to every single person i passed, and made sure i smiled at them.  i wanted to see what would happen.
     i passed a couple going in the opposite direction on their upright cruisers.  blankfaced, just cruising along.  i smiled.  "good morning" i said.  immediately, their faces lit up and they both responded, "hi."
     as i approached two younger women out on a walk, i said, "good morning, on your left."  as i passed i heard one of them say to the other, "i want to start cycling."  (i nearly turned back to talk to her, to encourage her to just do it.)
     i passed a guy on a mountain bike taking his own time... again i said, "good morning, on your left." and smiled as i went by.  he said "good morning."
     as i passed and greeted each person, i noticed a pattern.  i could change the expression on their faces just by saying hello and smiling.
     the only person who beat me to the punch was a 5 year old boy who passed me going in the other direction. "hi" he said to me.  "he gets it" i said to myself.  i said, "hi" back, and continued on my way. (it turns out he had long outdistanced his dad and younger brother... he clearly knew what this was about.)
     anyway.... it was becoming clear that it's absolutely possible to give away bikeface.
     this ride helped me today.  even though i didn't ride fast, or long.  i was able to push through the loneliness i feel when i ride alone.  i was able to push through feeling like a stranger when i think of my cycling community that i left back in michigan, and the new cycling community here in cincinnati that i am learning to be a part of.  i feel better knowing that i can find some (some) enjoyment out of a solo ride.  i can do something small to maybe make it all better, for me, and maybe for someone else too.
     today, i learned to give away bikeface.  and that makes it a very happy new year's day.  a great first 24 miles on my ol' trusty little red bike....

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Slow Return

When I started this blog, I intended to include pictures of friends (and even people I don’t know) who are riding how, what, where, and with whom they love.  I intended to tell the stories of others, to share the larger world of cycling and of friends and loved ones as they celebrated those personal connections on the bike. 

But those intentions were thrown out as soon as I sat down with my computer.  As it turned out, this has ended up a record of my musings – however meager they can be – about the more philosophical or spiritual aspects of bikeface, of cycling.  This was kind of a surprise to me.  As I wrote, I found myself talking about the lessons I have learned on the bike that I found also deeply informed my life off of the bike.  And I learned a lot of things about how I felt about cycling, and life, in the process.  One of my favorite quotes about writing sums this up perfectly: “How do I know what I think unless I see what I say?” 

I suppose I didn’t know about the simple act of cycling until I started writing about it.  And sadly, sometimes, it’s not so simple.  Sometimes things get complicated, and we have to move our attentions elsewhere….

In the past 8 months, another kind of writing has taken most of my attention away from riding and writing about riding….. As many may know, I have been writing my dissertation to complete my doctoral degree.  As the days get closer to finishing, my cycling has waned tremendously. 

The balance is off.  My cycling community feels different to me as a result.  I feel like a guest in my old group of friends as they have moved on and experienced things together that I have missed out on, and can now tell stories about that will never include me as they once had.  I feel different.  But interestingly, my riding is not.  It is perhaps the one predictable thing in my life.

But, after 8 months of only occasional riding (I have maaaybe 300 miles logged in so far), I am slowly adding more hours in the saddle to my daily routine.  And I’m finding it to be… well… like riding a bike…. I remember everything.

I am discovering my old self again.  I am seeing how my legs actually do remember how to climb.  My core does remember what it means to anticipate the curves in the trail, to intuit the momentum it will take to accomplish a climb (especially on my little single speed mountain bike), the breath control it will take to keep calm and flow during the sections that scare me just a little (and some, a lot). 

And, I am learning – or, reminded – that so much of my writing life and my riding life intertwine.  Momentum helps me get through the next difficult section of text, like the next difficult climb.  Feathering the brakes helps me to carve turns on a downhill carefully while not damaging the landscape, just as much as stepping back away from the page just for a moment helps craft sentences that seem to fit in just right. 

The whole relationship – the dialectic of my life – turns and twists and meanders and finds the main road  again when I am neither pushing too hard, or ignoring it too much.  It just is.  And I have forgotten that of late.

But the crucial part is that I have to show up.  Even when things are difficult – as they are right now – I have to show up to ride.  I have to show up at my computer every day.  I have to show up for myself. 

And this will all be put to the test as I transition into a new job soon, in a new city, with a new cycling community.  It’ll be fascinating to see how one bike life that I have built over several years, moves into a new bike life in a new context, with new people, with a new landscape to learn.

And while I have much more to say on this matter, I will stop this post here. 

My intention was to take the first step to show up again.  So here I am. 

But I have a request:

I want to change the focus of this blog just slightly.  I want to return to its original intention.  So, please send me photos and your stories (even brief jottings) of bikeface.  I want to move back to learning from my cycling community.  I want this blog to include others.  I want to think of this space as representing the multiple ways that people experience bikeface.  On my own, the stories will be limited.  With others, the full spectrum of bikeface can be celebrated.  In short, I hope you’ll come along on a ride with me both on the road, and in the blog.