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Cycling to Win

Photo via Alessio Soggetti/Upsplash

You’d think cycling would be pretty straightforward. Pedal up, pedal down, pedal faster–round and round until your legs start burning and your bicycle accelerates at a clearly faster pace than it was going before.

Sure, riding a bike is that straightforward.

But riding your bike to win a race is absolutely not.

You add in gear shifting, cadence, power output, hills, flats, traffic, wet pavement, rocky pavement, bumpy pavement and we’re playing a whole different ball game. It’s like the Red Sox trying to win a pennant title at Yankee Stadium–it’s still baseball, but it’s a completely different ball game. And I grew up riding a bike. I didn’t grow up playing baseball.

Growing up, riding a bike meant freedom.

I remember running around barefoot in the green grass of our yard from jungle gym to drainage ditch to sand pit thinking my legs could take me wherever I wanted them to. That was, until I saw the gang of kids about a year to two years older than me riding their bikes down to the neighborhood pool. No adults chaperoning. No little siblings tailing on trikes. No timeline or schedule to abide by, like making it on the school bus at approximately 7:03 am. Just them, their bikes, and a whole neighborhood of sidewalks and driveways to roll down. Not to mention, restaurants to invade, pools to jump in, and crevices and corners of town yet to be explored before because moms are on a stricter schedule than the school bus–at least the school bus might wait five seconds.

Now, that I’d like to say I’m a little older and maybe a tad wiser I ride in a car. But owning and riding a bike still means freedom.

In fact, ripping down the side of a mountain on my bike without even so much as a fingertip hovering over the brakes quite literally sings freedom. And it’s a type of freedom I have truly never felt before. I’ve only ever experienced the chaotic type of freedom–the kind that refuses to listen to directions and actively seeks out the chance to rebel.

It’s a calm freedom–a sense of knowing.

When you’re sending a bike full throttle down a gravel road, you can’t be thinking about what’s for dinner, if the dog has food, and what time you clocked out from work. You can’t even think about the next bend in the road. Because if you even, for one millisecond, look up from the five inches past your tire rim, you’re toast. Or, should I say, you’re an over-easy egg fried light on the edges and left all gooey in the middle–perfect for dipping toast. (I knew this breakfast analogy would come full circle). And the funny thing is, I’m only ever reaching speeds of about 28 mph–snail speed for my car–but it hits a little differently when you’re not protected from the elements (or the blast of fresh air) by a windshield. And that, to me, is freedom in its most simplest form – which is arguably better than winning.

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