Bicycling Seriously

bicycling Health mortalityBicycling Seriously

Perhaps it is my reflective nature. As I prepare for each bicycling adventure (as they are all adventures of some sort), I focus my attention on the ride as I dress in kit and ponder possibilities.

Being a cyclist for over 30 years, experiences on the road have taught me that you assume nothing. A familiar route can suddenly be punctuated with anything from a flat tire to a surprise two-up sprint with a local canine.

(Truth be told, we do sometimes seek out known dogs on routes, a la American Flyers.)

On a more serious note, our human nature comes complete with denial. Our familiarity with the routine of riding breeds a certain contempt for unanticipated events. In retrospect, we find that these surprises are usually the rule and not the exception.

In bicycling, crashing is not an “if” proposition but a “when”.

This is not a brag but an accounting of the indifference of Nature. When we swing a leg over the saddle, we are accepting all of the limitations and vulnerabilities of being a two-wheeled human-powered vehicle. When we factor in interactions with traffic and the unpredictability of the modern driver, the cyclist will always get the short end of that stick.

Intentions always take a backseat to physics.

bicycling womanThe Serious Side

Bicycling is also a vehicle, pardoning the pun, for our pursuit of happiness. Whether using the exercise to keep body healthy or enjoying the psychological lift that regular exercise provides, we choose this activity for a purpose.

With regular riding, we are also reminded of our own mortality. Aging bodies perform differently than the younger ones we once had. Other losses also begin to occur.

Every serious crash I have experienced was with a car whose driver was ignorant of the physical power that they had in the situation. I have replaced the bicycles broken beyond repair, my broken bones and wounds have healed, but the lesson is there. Vehicle drivers will not always drive predictably. It is up to each rider to work around drivers and their distracted driving ways.

bicycling ghost bikeEvery once in a while, we lose a rider to death in one of these confrontations. All the more disturbing when it is someone we know. The increasing number of Ghost Bikes by the roadside remind  all of us about our vulnerability.

Sometimes the loss is due to malice, sometimes it is due to poor decisions of a driver or rider, and sometimes it is just an accident. Death while riding just becomes a possibility.

As with the recent death of the professional Italian rider, Michele Scarponi, a fatal crash while on a mundane recovery ride in his own neighborhood illustrates that none of us are immune to a certain randomness out on the road.

When the outcome of any ride could have been dramatically different if you had ridden slower, taken a different route, decided to sleep in… the “what-if’s” can overwhelm. In the end, it comes down to a rider’s willingness to submit to uncertainty on every ride we take.

Keeping Things Real

– You don’t seem alarmed.
-Would it help?
      Bridge of Spies (2015)

Taking a moment now and again to check in with my self keeps a certain honesty flowing.

Embracing risk is to acknowledge that I enjoy the sense of invincibility that exercise and those wonderful endorphins provide. There is also an acceptance that this is real life and there will be consequences for each and every decision.

I  have chosen to affirm my Life choices and not be a spectator.


What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson


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