Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Riding Alone

Most of my riding is done alone, frequently at what many perceive to be strange hours. This riding alone and at strange times allows me to fit in my riding and still be involved in a normal life: wife, son, job etc. For the past few years, until very recently, that riding time has been accompanied by music, the IPod, a cyclist’s best friend. Somehow though, I’ve managed to lose my IPod.
For those who know me this isn’t a huge surprise. There is rarely a day that passes where I haven’t lost something. Whether it be a leg warmer, glove, lunch bag or shirt I want to wear I am always frantically searching for a lost item. My desk at work has such a reputation that recently there was a bet related to how long I could keep it organized. I must add I won the bet (four or five weeks), but mostly because the money on the line was going to LAF. Usually things turn up at some point in the future, though not when I am looking for a specific item. Take today for example, an undershirt (for cycling) I hadn’t found in 2-3 months appeared again, how I’m not sure but I do have it. The good news for me is that as much as I ride it is easy to justify multiple articles of clothing. Of course to justify this I use the cover of not wanting to wear smelly clothes, though most of the time I wear arm warmers, tights, leg warmers multiple times before putting in the wash. Why? Well it is simply because I can’t find any other sets to wear.
But an IPod is different. It is relatively expensive, doesn’t get dirty and isn’t easy to justify having multiples on hand “just in case”. Plus the music being replicated wouldn’t make sense. And now the real horror, much of the music I’ve lost is not easily duplicated. I copy music from others at any chance. I hear a song and download from somebody else. To replace all my lost music would take months and thousands of miles of travel.
I’ve literally been a cyclist for decades. I started riding at 8, racing at 12. That’s 30 years of riding, three years, the most recent three, with an IPod accompanying me on most rides. Now I somehow feel lost without music to join me on my rides. Music makes the long rides a little less lonely. But I’ve also noticed something else, music also takes away some of the connection one gets with riding. Earbuds act as a windshield to the cyclist. Blocking out the noise and direct connection to the environment we pedal through.
In college, the only period I didn’t race, riding was still central to my life. I’d go out for rides and draft papers, write poems and disengage from the pressure of classes, roommates and whatever else stresses a 20 year old.
To ride alone, while many of us do it, to really enjoy it and prefer to ride alone takes a special person. I’ve always enjoyed riding alone more than with others. Sure there is the practical, no delayed start times, waiting for others mechanical issues, no issues of pace, and no debate over routes. The practical side of riding alone lets you leave the house at dawn do the exact ride you wanted or need to do and be home exactly when planned (less the odd flat tire that occurs). This is highly important when other commitments of life call. The practical side of riding alone lets the cyclist live the other parts of their life.
However, the philosophical beauty of riding alone, without music, is the opportunity to think. Riding without music these past few weeks has brought me back to a lot of the reasons I’ve loved cycling so long. The freedom of riding, hearing cars, birds, other cyclists, gears shifting, and heavy breathing of the efforts I put forth clears my senses.
Cycling has always allowed me, and many others, the chance to enjoy solitary life, ask questions, discuss answers and come up with creative solutions to life.
When I was young, before IPods, hell before walkmen, if you wanted music while riding you had to memorize songs and sing them to yourself. I can still tell you all the lyrics to “Born to Run”, “Allentown”’ and “Goodbye Ruby Tuesday”. The way a mind can and will jump during a 6 hour ride is amazing. Riding without music encourages one to use their mind more. To think about life, politics, religion with no interruption is the joy of riding. Music, while fun and enjoyable, on a ride is truly an interruption. The interruption is not why I love cycling. Alone, the freedom, the polar opposite of what an IPod brings to a ride is why I love cycling. The reason I have ridden for 30 years 90% of that time without music is because it has allowed me to use my mind in new ways. It has made me think and debate for hours on end. No easy way out of a debate, no simple solution. While I’ll lament the loss of my IPod, more importantly I’ve been reminded of my cycling roots and plan to continue to engage in cycling not just for my body but for my mind.


Anonymous said...

its iPod, not IPod :-)

Anonymous said...
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