Well, why DON’T you?

Aug.04, 2009, filed under Cycling

I was riding back from Real Foods yesterday, bags stuffed with veggies, tofu, rice, two types of tea, chocolate covered espresso beans and a selection of bath ballistics (I’d been to Whittard’s and Lush as well — if only I could get all of those things at the health food store). I was on Shackleton, my fixed gear Il Pompino and, as I pulled out to accelerate past a slow-moving bus, I had an experience that reminded me why I ride bikes and why, more to the point, I ride fixed.

It’s going to be hard to describe.

There’s a moment when, if you get it right, putting the power through the pedals becomes a sublime act that joins the very top of your head all the way down through your feet and the bike to the road itself, and you can feel the connection in the backs of your thighs. You don’t get this from pedal mashing — the HULK SMASH! stomping technique of acceleration — which is why it is easier to find on a fixed gear. The fixed gear forces you to spin, to work in circles. It forces you to be smooth, serene, sublime. It’s listening to Zero 7 in the bath with a glass of chilled Chablis. It’s lying on the beach with a warm can of coke and sand in your hair.

Synaesthetically, riding a fixed gear is the water feature in a Zen garden.

There’s something joyous about riding a bike, and not just a fixed gear. People sometimes ask me how I do it. Why I do it. Mention the Dumb Run and the first thing people ask is if you’re doing it for charity.

“No, we’re doing it for fun.”

Fun. We ride bikes for the moments when your face splits helplessly into a massive grin for the sheer exhilaration of being alive and doing something that’s both insanely silly and undeniably enjoyable. Balanced on a contraption made of a few tubes of metal and a couple of round things; something that’s only inherently stable if it’s moving. Bicycles come alive when they move. When they’re stationary they’re cogs and gears and levers. When they move, though, when you’re on one…

Driving to work is a chore. Riding to work is being on your bike. Taking the bus into town is a pain in the arse. Riding into town is a jaunt.

Yesterday reminded me that the only proper response to people asking why I do it is: “Why don’t you?”

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