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.