I met and interesting fella the other day. A fellow cyclist, I suspect he has several years on me. As is usually the case with cyclists when they first meet each other, we went to great lengths to talk about how slow we ride. This is interesting behavior that seems consistent among road cyclists, and a bit unique to them. In most sports, the bravado takes over, and guys talk about how good they are. With road cyclists, everyone is always talking about how slow they ride, and how weak they are, and how their bike could never go as fast as your bike. All in the hope, I suppose, that they’ll take you by surprise when the riding actually begins.
But I digress…
The conversation got me thinking about how much my style of cycling is a reflection of the way I live my life, and how much that’s changed over the years.
When I was a younger man, I liked sprinting. I was physically built more like a sprinter, and in most things I did – sports or otherwise – I went at them pretty hard and relentlessly. Point A to Point B was what I was all about, with a strong focus on getting to Point B as fast as possible.
Today, I’m much more of a savorer than I am a sprinter. While I’m still aware of Point B in front of me, and I still arrive at Point B, I’m much more focused on savoring the moments along the path between Point A and Point B than I am with reaching Point B in record time.
I like to keep my head up these days, and make sure I catch the nuances of the world as I pass through it. I like to sniff the air often, to make sure I don’t miss some particularly sensual scent as it moves across me. When I hear some crickets or lizards singing beside the road, I’m much more likely to stop and soak in the sound for a few minutes.
This summer – on my bicycle journey from Monterey, CA back to Colorado, I had one day that I’d worried about as it was coming up. It was a 120 mile day across the Mojave Desert in June, the first 90 miles of which had no houses, services, or other ways to supply myself with water. I was on my own, and if ever there was a need to stay focused on Point B, that was the day.
A tailwind developed for me, and I knew if that wind continued, I could make record time in the day. Back in my sprinter days, I would have poured on the coal, and not let up until I reached the end. Instead, I stopped and took pictures often, (almost 100 pictures that day I think), and left several voice recordings. I was so wrapped-up in the joy of that tailwind that I didn’t really care about a record time.
On one stretch, the road was a gentle descent for over 10 miles. With the tailwind, I was able to gently coast down the empty highway, rolling by bicycle from side to side, enjoying the hot breeze and the sounds of the desert lizards on the side of the road. Sure I could have grabbed a great big gear and screamed down the descent at 40 MPH, but I would have missed that gentle rhythm of rolling the bike from side to side, and the song of the lizards, not to mention the gorgeous scenery unfolding around me.
The wind stayed behind me all day, and it turns out I did set a record for myself, averaging over 20 MPH over that 120 miles. Never for a second do I wish I would have pushed harder to set a better record. The joy of that day cycling still lingers in my memory today.
Point B is still on my mind, and there’s no doubt I enjoy getting there, but I enjoy it so much more now that I’ve leaned to savor the space between Point A and Point B more than I once did.