There is something to riding a bike that makes it better simply because it’s harder. It requires effort, and whatever it is that you have achieved, from bringing home the shopping to summiting a mountain, you have done it under your own power. There is a bit of – or a lot of – a challenge to it, and that, in turn, is what is so freeing about it.
I was thinking that this probably applies more to recreational cycling than practical cycling, but, then, does it? My thoughts immediately turned to long climbs up picturesque mountains, epically long rides, challenging surfaces, and a pace that leaves little room for conversation or even thoughts more complex than, “breathe, stay relaxed, pedal smoothly, don’t loose that wheel, keep going”.
But then I thought about simply getting around town on a bike, and even though many people do it at a relaxed pace, without any special equipment, and without a care about how fast it gets done, the same satisfaction is gained from the same sense of achievement.
In a way, driving is easier. It’s passive, physically, and usually even mentally. It requires little effort and provides little connection to the process of completing the task at hand. Sure, commuting by bike often frees you from the gridlock of traffic and the wind on your face and increased heart rate and mental activity from pedaling restore the body, mind, and spirit, but there is something special about the simple fact that you are the sole cause of propelling yourself from A to B, with groceries, that makes the whole process special.
That’s what practical and recreational cycling share. That’s what those in cute dresses and heels and trendy lycra have in common. What everyone who rides a bike can feel good about.
Rapha has been pretty successful at making clothes, but their media could stand on its own. All the elements of their productions combine to really capture cycling at it’s best. Perhaps at its essence. They deliver inspiration to ride in large quantities. The video below connected with me because of my interest in searching out new roads as of late, gravel or otherwise. I love the sense of discovery, the seemingly infinite versions of my local area that each new road presents. The effort it takes to get there. The incomprehensible sum that such mundane parts such as dirt, gravel, pavement, trees, hills, cows, shadows, sunlight, clouds, a bicycle, and the act of pushing on the pedals can add up to. There is quite a lot of insight from the characters in the video that really resonates with, I should think, anyone that enjoys riding their bike, however they enjoy riding it. Granted, it may appeal slightly more to those who enjoy finding their limits, whose destinations involve sunrises, sunsets, vistas, the top of mountains, and the feeling of burning lungs and legs, but also to anyone who rides simply to enjoy all that comes with being on the bike.
“I always knew that cycling wasn’t just the act of riding a bike, it was always a far more emotional, far more ethereal practice than just pedaling.”
Man. I really can’t wait to go ride my bike.
Header image: The Sticky Bidon