Our lives have become so static. Technology is robbing us of our basic senses. We don’t need to smell/hear/taste anymore to survive the lion that would, without hesitation, eat us back when our species wore loin cloths and bone jewelry. Now days, the lion is an Angry Cat meme. Our senses are dulled into complacency. As we stare at spreadsheets on our retina screens all workday long peripheral vision is muted, critical thinking is muted, depth perception is muted. We are diluted versions of the physical creatures we evolved to be. We work, play, and live in sterile environments (insert dramatic pause here as I reach for my hand sanitizer). We think we’re exercising when we go to the gym—but we’re not— we’re only exercising a tiny fraction of our physical potential. Yes, it’s better than nothing, but I guarantee if your gym were to be set up outside on a dirt track in the woods, you wouldn’t get strep throat every year. However, these days most of us are afraid to take risk, get hurt, feel uncomfortable—“will my insurance cover that?…no? Better not try that then.”.
Floating. Gliding. Crashing. Hard. Soft. Scary. Comforting. Rushing. Alive.
These are some of the words that came to me as I lay in bed, bruised and sore, waking up to my third day of the Better Ride mountain bike skills clinic in Austin, TX. The weekend was for learning and drilling the basics of how to survive trail riding without breaking any of your extremities. A wise investment of time and effort when you’re standing on top of the mountain and staring into the valley of your 40’s. Let’s face it, rib fractures and bruised bums aren’t as easy to come back from in midlife as they were back in your roaring 20’s, even if they are inflicted while doing something as ridiculously fun as flying down rock steps on your pink Marine bike.
The clinic gave me a lot of time to think about why I love riding bikes so much, and why I want everyone I know and love to ride with me. I love it because when you’re on a bike you wake up—every cell in your body wakes up—it’s a liberating state of being in this Cult of Personality we are all drowning in. (Oh yea…I went there with a Living Color reference! Dude rockin’ bike shorts before bike shorts were cool.)
My Better Ride coaches spent a lot of time talking about trusting your peripheral vision, looking two steps ahead, never looking down, keeping your arms relaxed and your core stable, leaning into the curve. These things, I realized, are metaphors for living a happy life. Risk is rewarding. Crashing is rewarding. Without the crash, there is no euphoria in the sense of self pride you will feel when conquer your fear and you get up to try again. This is living to full potential, awake and free in your mind. On a bike, you get all this reward in the package of a small frame and wheel set that you can get on anytime you want without having to wait for the sweaty dude who was on it before you to wipe it down…gross.
Floating, gliding, crashing, hard, soft, scary, comforting, rushing, alive…and just the tip of a mountain of delicious sensory load on a bike. Here’s to feeling human again!