Not one to let the end of summer pass by while we sip iced tea and laze on our balcony, Felkerino has been unstoppably enthusiastic about weekend rides in the country.
His love affair with summer is certainly infectious, and I’ve been happily coming along for the ride. (See what I did there?) Bicycling in the countryside is a nice change from riding home as the sun sets over Rosslyn every night.
Long weekend late-summer rides on quiet roads beyond the Beltway free me to pedal and ponder life as we ride around and through the lush pillowy green mountains.
Soybean leaves turn golden yellow, and the corn grows so tall that we nose the bike out that extra few inches at intersections to assure ourselves the coast is clear. Subtle signs convey that these delicious days weren’t meant to last.
Usually when we’ve made such commitments to active weekends and bike overnights it has been in the interest of some upcoming event, be it the brevets or a summer tour. For the next few months, though, we have no bikey plans on the horizon except a paid century or two.
We talk about why we’re hitting the riding so hard, but we keep coming up with nothing. We have no fitness or training reasons for it, but even so, whenever a span of free time opens up we yearn to fill it with bike riding.
When I was young, I developed a transactional relationship with physical activity. If I work out, then I’ll lose weight, look better, improve fitness, live longer. Even as an adult, much of my cycling and running have been founded in this “if-then” exchange, and what comes after the activity itself.
You see this if-then reflected in gadgets and apps that translate the calories burned through activity into numbers of donuts, gym membership marketing campaigns that sell the promise of a summer beach body in exchange for your workouts, and fitness studies that bombard us with the importance of exercise for long-term health.
This weekend as we rode, my mind drifted into big thoughts territory, and I realized that recent events have disabused me of many of the if-then truths I fed myself for decades about physical activity, and I’ve been reshaping why working out, running, and cycling matter.
Felkerino and I pedaled and gnashed our gears through the persistent steeps of West Virginia, this past weekend, and I loved it. We sweat through our clothes as the humid Mid-Atlantic summer breathed down our necks, and I loved it. I soaked in the views from ridge tops, content that our exertion had propelled us there, and I loved it.
Human-powered play and exploration are essential fuel for my spirit. Will I live longer by exercising? I don’t know– maybe that doesn’t matter so much. I can live fully in the now, moving quietly over the world’s surface with my enthusiastic riding partner for however many years our bodies allow, purely for the love of it.
It’s not how long you live, it’s how you live long.
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Great post! Somehow it all comes down to feeling good. If I tried to ride my bike simply because it was good for me or good for the earth I’d struggle to do it. But I never struggle to get on my bike! The mix of effort, exploration, sociability, and feeling engaged with the world keep me coming back again and again.
Thanks, and I agree, it’s definitely more difficult to ride if the purpose for doing it isn’t inherently about the riding itself.
i love this….you, living in the *now*….
You have such a lovely writing style, Mary.
Why thank you Mr. Phoenix!
Cycling is the best therapy on soooo many fronts.
What a great post! I have read it through three times so far 🙂 Biking used to be about solely transportation and/or burning calories to me but now? I do it because it is fun and because pedaling on my bike just feels “right”. I used to spend time begrudgingly on my bike but now I want to spend as much time as I can on the road!
Thanks for reading, Bri! I’m happy this post resonated with you, and happy that you’re enjoying the time on the bike, too.
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For the love of it is the best reason of all.
“Moving quietly over the world’s surface” is a phrase that will stay with me. There is something about the near-silence of a bike that lets me lose myself in my surroundings. A truly lovely post. Thank you.
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Yes, there is something about the quiet of it, as well as the pace– faster than walking or running but never too fast.