As I understand it, the rabbit is already in the hat, but I’m not clear on how it gets there. As far as I know, it’s magic that puts the rabbit there in the first place and magic that pulls it out. That explains why every time I leave the house bestride a bicycle I don’t necessarily find what I’m looking for. As it turns out, the rabbit is not always ready to face the day. Sometimes I’m left chasing it, a greyhound at the track, loping madly, round and round.
Round and round.
I say I want to ride my bike, but what I really mean is that I want to feel the things that riding a bike can help you feel. I want that bursting sense of possibility I get when I hammer out of the driveway and up the slight rise at the end of the road, the launch of a new ride and its palpable feeling of freedom, of escape, a buzzing in my guts as adrenalin collides with serotonin up in the old brain box. I sprint for the top of the hill, the faster to get out into the world.
Actions and feelings are inseparable, stimulus and response, the one leading to the other and back again in a tight loop of motivation and energy. But the cruel truth is that the same actions don’t always lead to the same feelings. The recipe is never so neat and easy. Every time you ride your bike, you don’t reach that magic place.
It’s cold and dark these days, and I’m desperate to catch that rabbit.
I want to feel the desperate equilibrium of a long climb, the way head and lungs strike their fragile bargain, teetering there between capacity and rhythm, hovering in that place where I can’t seem to do more and can’t seem to do less, legs screaming but not loud enough to be heard, breathing heavy but not too heavy to lift another pedal, every train of thought fully occupied by forward movement, and everything melting away except the climbing, the up.
Or the post-ride feed. Sitting around a table with friends, cups steaming or ice jumbling against sugary salvation, the food spread before us like a trophy cabinet, and the inquest beginning. Everyone did either more or less than they actually did, as suits their ego and the careful arrangements among friends. I’m inclined to let them be the hero of the story, if it’s a good enough story.
Imagine my chagrin, though, standing there on stage, elbow-deep in a black felt top hat, members of the audience beginning to chuckle. There’s sand and road salt spattered down my front, my fingertips numb from the cold, bits of frozen rain tick-ticking off my helmet. That rabbit is here somewhere, and if not, well, the show goes on. Suspend your disbelief. I’ll find him eventually.
You came all the way to The Cycling Independent. You might as well get the lousy t-shirt.