The Joy of Biking

I’ve been trying to articulate in my mind what it is about biking that is so darn great.  Not just for me, but in general.  As I delve into it deeper, I realize that there are in fact different dimensions of joy dependent on who you are, what your expectations are, and what type of riding you do.  Let’s explore this:

The first ride.  These are kids who are learning to ride a bike.  After several fits and false starts, there is that moment where balance evolves from a theoretical concept to reality.  Fear and determination are replaced by satisfaction and joy.  It becomes a right of passage that the youngster can now ride a “big kid’s bike” and has the means to explore the world beyond the limitations of the curb…at least as soon as Mom and Dad aren’t around to say no.

Beyond the horizon.  This is an extension of the above, whereby the rider is trusted to use a bike to get from point A to point B, where otherwise a parent would be employed to drive there.  Dependence on someone elses priorities and schedule is replaced by responsibility, independence, and trust.

Speed.  For the racers in us, we go through a phase where joy is realized by going faster on a human powered vehicle than we ever could by simply running.  It requires physical effort, risk, and courage; but the reward is thrill and personal satisfaction.  Some of us still will occassionally revert to this level with sudden bursts of downhill enthusiasm; while others will work to refine it into a way of life – bikes are for going faster than the other guy, and one must work at it to make that happen.  The joy of winning.

Transportation/Going Green.  This is a multi-dimensional joy within itself.  It’s those that strive to use a bike as their primary mode of transportation, usually replacing a car.  Immediate gratification comes from decreasing one’s carbon footprint by not burning gas.  Then the aspect of saving money becomes a factor.  We now have become a more responsible member of the human race.

Grit.  Again, hard to describe; but in essence, this joy derives from the times we are out on our bikes when a more sane person would be inside, sitting with their feet up by the fire.  There is a barely explained satisfaction that comes from succeeding, or in some cases almost succeeding, at riding in conditions that push us to the limit – physically and/or mentally.  We are defining our toughness.  I put distance cycling into this category.

Exploration/Recreation.  This is the adult version of the first ride, where we rediscover the bicycle and the freedom it has to offer.  Whether it be on a Schwinn Collegiate or a Rivendell Custom, there is the joy that comes from remembering that first joy, and experiencing it all over again.  (You never forget how to ride a bike!)  The possible result is incorporating the bike into one’s recreational/exercise routine, and seeking out interesting places to ride.  For the most part, this is where I am at right now.

Flow.  Probably the hardest to explain verbally, but you also probably know what I mean.  There is a point in the human condition where all variables come into sync and the ride just clicks.  A balance is struck between energy expended and results achieved, be it speed, scenery, mental clarity, etc…  We get into a self perpetuating endorphinic groove that can only be ended by sheer exhaustion, time constraints, or choice.  This is akin to many sports, and is also referred to as “The Zone.”

I know I’ve missed some, so feel free to add your own.  How do you define “the joy of biking?”


One response to “The Joy of Biking

  1. Just FYI, on 9-26-07, while commuting on bike for work on Walnut and Front Street, I was plowed down by an 80 y.o. in a SUV whom blew through a red light where all other lanes had stopped cars. I have endured 2 surgeries and will have pain from now on. Be careful in Harrisburg. His only penalty was a ticket for running a red light. I live with the rest of the penalties. Our laws protect drivers even when they really hurt someone when THEY break the law. Take care.

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