The Mediated Message

We’re all just struggling to understand the messages the world is sending us, verbal, aural, psychic. We are always deciphering, interpreting. And, as someone smart once said (I’m paraphrasing here) divine messengers have this funny knack for ambiguity. I suspect many of us ride bikes because it’s a simpler way to understand the world.

Let me simplify it completely.

The message is the ground. It doesn’t matter what bike you’re on. Smooth pavement. Dirt road. Rough singletrack. It spools out like a sound file, a sine wave, a lie detector test, a topographical player piano. And you receive that message, the ground, in your body and in your mind, as you ride.

It doesn’t come directly, but neither is the message ambiguous.

If you’ve ever fretted over tire choice and then tubes vs. tubeless and then pressure, you know how important the tire is to receiving the message in the clearest, most enjoyable way. Treads and beads and sidewalls; latex and pounds per square inch; the message’s first, most important filters.

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Then there is the wheel, the rim of aluminum or carbon fiber, and spokes tensioned just so. We’re in soup-cans-connected-by-string territory now. The message dancing up that narrow lacing to the hubs. We’re losing amplitude, the high highs and low lows clipped off, too much for our frail bodies and fragile minds to take in.

In the wheel, the message is spun, bits of information flying off in every direction, just surviving as an echo up the fork blades and seat stays.

If you’re on a suspension frame, there is both a literal and figurative compression of the information, to a narrow, presumably more tolerable, band. Anyway, we’re in the frame now, the ever-important frame. The over important frame? How much of the message really remains? Hard to say.

But, the frame is alive with vibration, the topography made haptic.

We’re in the homestretch now. It’s just a stem and bars, a post and saddle, between us and the truth. I say ‘truth’ but it’s obviously a muted version thereof, even more muted if you’ve deployed a chamois and pair of gloves to further isolate yourself from the noise.

Put like this, it sounds like looking at an eclipse through a pinhole in a piece of paper as it’s projected onto another piece of paper. It sounds like listening to your favorite band from the parking lot. It sounds like trying to connect with a loved one through a thick sheet of plexiglass. It sounds like trying to understand divine providence or the origins of the universe from the pages of a book.

But it is still sublime. The message is just that good.

Join the conversation
  1. jlaudolff says

    Just what I needed to read this morning. Great essay!

  2. papogi says

    Yes to this! Well said!

  3. khal spencer says

    The whole is more than the sum of the parts.

  4. alanm9 says

    Yes to this, but…put in a pair of ear buds and now you’re just digitally sampling the signal through the noise, and you’ve lost it.

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