Find What You Love And Let It Kill You

Using writing to describe my love of cycling, is not possible.  Ultimately, the words are just descriptions.  If you want to really know something, you have to experience it.  Still, regaling words are what writing is all about.  I would not love cycling if it wasn’t for Peter Paetsch.  He gave me two pedals in a box, for my birthday once.  And I took them out and looked at them and then did the polite, “Oh, thank you.”  I didn’t own a bike.  I didn’t ride.  Moments later, I looked at him and said, “Why would you give me a pair of pedals?  I don’t even own a bike.”  And Pete said, “Now you have to get one.”  That’s Pete.  Those pedals stayed in that box, on a dark shelf, forever collecting dust.

Then one day, I bought a cheap heavy hybrid bike, so when my car needed repairs, I could still get around.  It was fun and different for somebody who just ran, played basketball and lifted weights.  I began to do short pleasure rides along the bike path, until one day I came home and stumbled upon those pedals.  I decided to take them out and put them on my bike, simply to see if Pete had some Holy Grail type of knowledge,  that I didn’t.  Being that they were Look brand clip ons, once I got them on, I realized I couldn’t ride the bike unless I had cleats.  I thought to myself, “Pete’s an asshole,” and blamed him for dropping me off at this crossroad.  So, I said, “What the hell?” and went out and bought the cheapest pair of cleats I could find, $150 later.

I got back home, put on the shoes, mounted the bike and heard that CLICK, for the first time.  I set out for the bike path, the same route I’d casually taken many times before and I began to pedal.  Suddenly, my legs and feet were soldiers, following the commands of my brain.  Each leg propelled the other leg, perpetually.  There was no more soft pedaling.  There was only turning a crank and feeling the propulsion of the rubber wheel over the concrete.  It was a steady state of work on a thin line.  My natural competitive juices began to flow and yet a quieting ecstasy began taking over my body.  I felt no pain and heard no sound, other than the interior symbiosis of my heart and lungs, working rhythmically, to move oxygen and blood throughout my body.  When I got to my usual turn around, I had no memory of getting there.  All I had was a heightened feeling of being acutely alive.  Since then, I’ve ridden dozens of Centuries, cycled across states and countries, crashed several times, watched tons of televised races, owned many bikes — but still, when I’m alone on my bike, it’s blissful serenity.  And nothing else feels like it.  I hope everyone has a friend as wise as Pete.  And if you are so lucky, I hope you share many “rides” together, because nothing is better in life.

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