Stoking the Fire

We’ve all been there. We look at the bike and see this thing that has occupied enough of our time to have resulted in a college degree. And no matter how much we love riding, there are those days when we don’t so much see the bike as this thing that makes us work. We forget what it lets us see, how it makes us feel as the spring wind flows over us.

One day of, I’ve got too much to do today, becomes, Eh, if I miss a second day this week, how much difference will it make? and that becomes, I really could use a rest week. But how we get from there to, It’s not like I need to be in race condition, is one of those descents that suggests a greater erosion of the soul, the white lie that becomes the whole-cloth yarn. And when we talk ourselves out of a ride we are definitely lying to ourselves. We can’t see it in the moment, but how can anyone convince themselves that riding a bicycle is redundant, something we’ve done enough of to hold us? For as many times as I’ve done it, I can’t answer, but it absolutely is a lie.

And of the many lies we can tell, is there any lie worse than one we tell ourselves?

You don’t need to ride.

Think of the many people we know who, were we to reveal such a preposterous thought, would look at us and laugh until they cried and plead that their stomachs were sore. We, the people who already ride too much for a non-cyclist to comprehend, actually agree with them.

Thanksgiving dinner conversation would never be the same.

You’ll never believe what she said to me.

The real issue isn’t that this happens, but to acknowledge that we all need help re-lighting the pilot for this particular furnace. All the normal folks just set a goal. There are those of us who didn’t take up cycling to achieve a goal. We ride our bikes because we are Zen masters and riding the bike is enough. Until that day when it’s not.

Sometimes we need the obligation of paying the entry fee or committing to the group ride to get us out the door. The real duty shows itself to be both simple and complicated. Simple because getting us out the door is often enough to turn around our flagging attitude. Complicated because we commit to no one so much as ourselves.

Our friends know that feeling of fatigue in our legs, the one that says we aren’t so much tired as under construction. They know the satisfaction that comes with that flavor of fatigue—they’ve worn that smile. Because it is elusive, it leads to signposts from our past. It connects to a time when parts of us were as yet unknown, our futures not yet ridden.

National Public Radio will send a tow truck to your house to collect that old car you don’t want. We already own that car. Instead, please consider subscribing to TCI and letting squirrels and other woodland creatures nest in your old car.

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