Tag: zen

Well, why DON’T you?

by on Aug.04, 2009, 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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Open water

by on Jul.15, 2009, under training, Triathlon

I’m entered in the Galway triathlon on the 25th and have been worrying about the lack of open water time I’ve managed to put in this year. After a couple of stressful days in court (as a witness, I hasten to add), I emerged today and realised there was no wind. It was utterly still.

I’d had the presence of mind to pack some training gear and so I had my wetsuit with me. I stopped off at Lower Largo on the way home to Edinburgh, just by Largo Bay Sailing Club (I used to be a member, when I was a whole lot younger), to go swimming.

Whenever you say to someone that you’re going swimming in the sea, unless he too is into open water swimming, the reaction seems to be one of absolute bafflement. Today was one of those days when I wish I could have dragged the naysayers along to see what makes it so special — only that would have meant sharing, and some things are just too good to share.

Visibility was in the tens of metres. The surface, after some initial chop left over from today’s electrical storms subsided, was glossy. The mirror finish was broken by a brief spell of rain, the sound of it hissing into the sea around me only making the experience more magical. The red lenses of my goggles brought a hazy purple, mystical quality to everything; and there were bright clouds of silver fish that drifted away in lazy formation at my approach, as well as crabs waving their armoured pincers like angry robots on the delicately rippled sand far below.

I love the sea. I’ve always loved the sea. They say it’s in your blood, and if that’s true then my blood runneth with seaweed and plankton. I would have stayed there until dark and beyond if it were not for my mum waiting for the safety call at 18:30 and the knowledge I had to make it across the bridge before the roadworks started. Swimming in the sea is a bit like riding a bike on busy roads: those who don’t do it think you’re mad if you do. Those who know how great it can be nod, smile and have that twinkle in their eyes that is the outward manifestation of happy memories.

You should try it some time. It’s one of the best stress remedies there is.

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