One of my favorite authors, especially when it comes to cycling, is Joe Kurmaskie. He has many books, all to do with cycling, and the link to his site is over to the right of this post. I have read them all. In fact, I am in the process of rereading them. Currently I am rereading Riding Outside the Lines. It’s a series of short essays and stories of his many and varied cycling experiences. He is funnier than hell, and each story can stand alone to entertain a rider.
But now and then, you read a part that stops you and makes you think, “Damn! He nailed it!”
That happened today on the flight from Seattle to Spokane. I am sure the man next to me was wondering while I was giggling while reading. But then I read this, in his chapter “We’ll Find Your Balls Come Springtime”, and stopped to think:
…every long curve I’ve ever navigated, every tight sloping angle when I’ve hung rubber just this side of the yellow line, only inches from oncoming traffic or the edge of the abyss, has a story behind it. But only if you keep going.
No one simply materializes at the top of the hill.
It takes effort, a certain elemental commitment to get yourself and that rolling metal steed up the mountain. It involves sweat, concentration, and no small measure of faith. There is also the fervent belief that there will be this sweet-as-honey downhill run waiting just after the crest, the promise of an amazing, if brief, boundless glide top the bottom.
This explains, in a way I never could, the difference between someone who owns a bike and one who enjoys, to their core riding.
I have spent HOURS on the uphill side of hell more than once. Sometimes barely maintaining enough speed for forward motion. Head down, trying not to shift up to the biggest gear (because once you do, there’s nothing left to help you) with one goal in mind, the top. No matter how tired I am, I know how much I will enjoy it when it’s over. The relief I feel on top goes from head to toe, even if more hills are coming. Its triumph combined with expectation.
The expectation is because I know only one way to go downhill. ALL OUT!! I let gravity work its magic on me! I feel its only fair since it did everything it could to keep me from getting to the top! My best downhill speed to date is 40 MPH and I was smiling the whole way!
One friend of our’s asked me why I would do that! “What if you crash?” SHE is the owner of a bike, not a cyclist. (Of course she also refuses to give up “control” of her car the cruise control, but that’s another story). My answer to her was “Don’t crash!” I am careful watching out way ahead of me, and have great brakes I use when needed. But I try very hard not to touch them. I want to feel the magic, the flying, and complete freedom that only comes on the back of the bike, expecially going downhill!
I am lucky enough to live and can ride in places that have dowhills of 10 – 15 miles (yep, from windy ridge in St Helens to ground level, 15 miles of no pedaling! EPIC!! I train and work out to make sure I can get to the top. I refuse to ride a long downhill unless I have earned it with an uphill! (One exception, if I ever make it to the volcano in Hawaii where you can bike down starting in a parka and ending in a swim suit, I am all in!)
My reason for sharing this? It’s why I ride. It’s the freedom, the thrill and the flat-out fun I have on two wheels. It started when I was 5
and I am still going at almost 50.
And as long as I can still throw a leg over the saddle, keep my balance and make it to the top of a hill, I will be flying down the other side. (110 years old still riding like the wind!)
Every hill is its own challenge and mini adventure. I know people who will only ride on a bike path, and avoid hills whenever possible. I say find the hills , concur them, and yell out loud with joy (or in my case sing!) down the other side!
See yall on top!