I don’t remember a lot about the first hour. We’d been side-by-side on a stretch of old rail bed, one of the few corridors like it that hasn’t been paved, moving at a chatting pace, the easier to cover the distance. Then, as we approached a broad pond, we dropped down onto a section of single-track and suddenly everything came into focus. I had the strong sense of a lens, having been on auto focus, scanning around for something interesting to shoot, all at once zooming into the narrow strip in front of our tires as it slithered through rocks and trees.
Both my vision and my mind sharpened, and what was pedaling became riding.
I like to talk while I ride, especially on the road, especially on a straight away. It sure helps to pass the time. Really any route where you have distance to cover and the terrain isn’t doing much to make you work, it’s best to have a companion to distract you. A lot of my regular riding friends don’t talk, except when we’re steady and next to each other, or stopped under the shade of a tree to drink some water and rest. In these scenarios riding is only one of the things we’re doing, because the riding isn’t much to think about.
Once we took that subtle left off the rail bed onto the trail, I was amazed at how quickly I exited my social mindset and entered a flow state. I zoomed in instantly, dipping my right shoulder to clear a tree, shimmying my back tire out to the left to set up the next turn. Without saying a word, we’d both come alive, and simultaneously we leapt into the pedals to turn up the volume on this new feeling, what the bros call “stoke.”
It’s not an awful word.
I’m not sure how long we went on like this, maybe until the joy of moving through the woods was overcome by the fatigue building in muscle and bone. When we finally came to a stop, reaching for bottles, we both smiled, and I said something glib like, “Well, that was fun.” And we set off again to try to get it back, charging around among the trees until it was time to get back on the double-track and slow roll home, talking the whole way about how good that trail is, how good they all are, and making a plan to do it again as soon as possible.
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The transition from “pedaling” to “riding.” Perfectly described. Thank you. That is one of the things I enjoy most about many rides, especially on gravel where you may have long sections of “pedaling.” Eventually, you find that section of trail or the twisty, narrower part that makes it all so much fun.