... on the bicycle ...

What is a bicycle? Two wheels. A frame. Pedals. A saddle. A handlebar. And freedom. The bicycle, whose iconic outline is recognized almost everywhere on our planet, represents over a hundred years of evolution. It is not a machine that encases and insulates us from the outside world, but one that allows us to see and experience more. Rather than being cocooned inside a metal container, the beautifully simple, mechanical combination of tubes, cables, cogs, chains and rubber allows one to conquer greater distances, scale greater heights and reach higher speeds than our legs alone would allow. To me, my bike is like an old friend or a sibling. Sometimes, I can’t fucking stand it. When the chain jumps on a 1 in 5 climb or when I get a blow out half way down a hairy decent, 20 miles from home, the desire to sell it for scrap metal is overwhelming. But the vast majority of the time it is a trusted companion, an extension of my body, more enabling than anything I can think of. And while I sometimes lust after shiny new components, I am secretly proud of the dings and imperfections on my bike because they tell a story of travelling, of adventure, of exploration. Regardless of the truth, I remember liking someone once saying that we evolved to run, to chase down gazelle on the open plains, and that there was something deep in our genes that loved to go fast over long distances using nothing but the power of our legs. If true, then, undoubtedly, bicycles harness that desire and multiply it. We are predators, but contemplative ones, philosophical in our pursuit. Physically, the bicycle has allowed me to explore my limitations more so than any other activity. Being more discontinuous than running, on one ride, I can push myself to the point at which my legs feel like they are going explode, my lungs have filed for a restraining order and my heart is beating like a small bird’s, on multiple occasions. And each time, allowing the frictional melody of my wheels rolling along the ground to accompany my recuperation. Mentally, I have learnt how powerful my mind can be, setting myself the target of the top of the hill ahead only to find that it is a false summit, but a quarter of the way to the true peak. The ability to say, in the words of one of my favourite Germans, ‘shut up legs and do what I tell you’ is simply incredible. Socially, it gives me an opportunity to regularly meet up with a group of similarly like-minded weirdos, clad in lycra, and shoot the shit. We perv on each others' bikes and discuss the century/audax/sportive/gran fondo/ride to the shops that we did last weekend and then bemoan how little remains in our tank and rue the decision to put the hammer down on those earlier climbs as the last hill of the day looms before us. In a sport where men shave their legs and visible genitals are part and package of the game, there really is no room for fake egos. There may be competition, and there may be timers and podium spots and a whole industry behind it, but at all levels, riding a bike is a fight with yourself and the strength of your character. To ride beyond the limit is to grow in a relationship of equal partners, you and the bicycle, for as many miles as you can spirit each other away. There are very few things in life that will ever give me so much pleasure. And only one of them would be happy to be kept in my garage.

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