After returning from yesterday’s nearly 4-hour excursion, the bike leaned against the couch. The sun took a late afternoon aim for the southwest treeline, and its rays pierced the window. In the contrasting lighted and shadow areas, and in the tangle of spoke lines, certain bits gleamed, demanding my attention.
When I paused to notice, that bike seemed to say, “I’ve got more to give. Why did we stop so soon?”
One gear will get you there.
The simple, profound sense of a ride on a warm winter afternoon in which one pedals and rolls forward, and pedals faster to roll faster, is in sharp contrast to other parts of life that are foolishly complicated and make absolutely no sense at all.
Shoal Creek Trail
south of W38th St
When traveling for business, the packing process includes rolling a bicycle into the cab behind the front seats. Many times, it doesn’t come out until I get back home. But I put it in there because I hope for better things. Occasionally, like yesterday afternoon, the clouds of circumstances part, the bright sun of opportunity shines, and my hope pays.
Perhaps it was work stress, and all the things left undone because of it, that prompted pondering on simplicity. Maybe it was the messy piles of clutter, and the things I’ve been too lazy to put away. Maybe it was the garage that has never housed a vehicle and has lately become an obstacle course. Of course, it was probably all of these that made me realize I was drowning in too much stuff. So I imagined ways to somehow reduce the size and complexity of my home and pile of possessions. Less things to store, maintain, and be concerned about seemed extremely attractive.
I even thought about how I might reduce the number of bicycles that demand my attention for cleaning, maintaining, and accessorizing. I imagined that less complexity might be just the thing to give more time to ride and enhance the cycling experience. I’d have less concern about where to store bikes, how to keep them all clean and operational, and making sure that I have the appropriate tools, water bottles, rackage, and baggage when I switch from one to the next. I even wondered if it would be possible to reduce the number of bicycles down to a single… one.
I was making great progress. I was getting used to the idea, and trying to decide which two-wheeled time robber would be the first to go. So believe me when I say that I have no idea how this happened.
Maybe this is THE ONE. Or maybe there are some things I just can’t explain.
I don’t have the energy, and you don’t have the patience, to deal with all of the places my mind went in this mental tug-of-war. So I’ll skip straight to where I ended up. It seems that making an objective decision about the best approach is pointless. If we are really honest, we’d probably admit that our objectives aren’t all that simple or even constant. Instead, they are quite multi-faceted and dynamic. That lands us in the realm of the subjective.
For most of us, it is never all about speed, or all about out-performing your ride buddies, or all about carrying stuff. There is a balance between light weight and durability, aesthetics and function, speed and comfort, etc. The truth is we want more than one thing, and the way we each evaluate optimal is different. That’s okay. It’s your money, and I don’t need to tell you what optimal should be for you, or how to achieve it.
My evaluation of optimal varies within the same day. This morning, I had a hankering to ride fixed. Even though I fought a headwind for an hour, and my one fixed gear was not optimal from a speed perspective, I wanted that sense of momentum and being a part of the machine. At the moment, it’s the only fixed gear bike I have, so in that sense it was an easy choice. I didn’t finish the ride as quickly as I could have on a different bike. I was out there enjoying the machine connection a little longer, and that was fine with me. In fact, it was preferred. Of all my bicycles, the Kogswell P/R was optimal. At least it was until this afternoon.
To get the most out of an adventure, one must be flexible. It is often the unplanned parts that reward the deepest.
The original plan was to bag my first S24O of the fall/winter season on the very last weekend of the year.
The plan was simple. After a busier, more chaotic, six months ever at work, it was a plan emphasizing solitude.
It would include slow strolls in the woods.
There would be time to stop and observe natural things that catch my eye.
I’d look up at the sky and marvel at the eye of the master designer.
And warm color would soothe the soul.
But a conversation planted a seed, which grew into a possibility, and the plan was modified. My brother and his son joined me for this overnighter, and I was able to share all these things and more.
We warmed ourselves by the fire. We talked and collectively enjoyed the silence. My brother and I handed the things we love to the next generation. We swelled with joy as we saw him embrace them…well, at least until the young man caught the only fish of the day.
We rode bicycles through the park…
…and just like that, like the new year follows the old, the next generation follows the first.
And I realized the value of the unplanned. Solitude has its place, but there is richness to life that only companionship can give. So bring on the new year, and bring on the young men who value getting out there and doing things.
Turn the page.