Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cycles of Cycling

In two and a half years of living in New York City, I've never settled back into cycling. I've certainly ridden, and not only outside in Central Park and up to Piermont and Nyack, but also indoors on my trainer on the days when snow falls past my living room windows. These rides have affirmed new friendships and re-invigorated old ones, led to the discovery of my greatest Hudson River valley culinary delight (the Bunbury muffin), and let me pedal through autumnal landscapes with a sense of flight that only cycling allows. But the visceral joy that would course through my veins as I charged Buttermilk in Ithaca, or Mt. Tam in the Bay Area, hasn't reappeared since I moved here, and I wonder at its absence as keenly as I feel it.

This is actually fun.
I've considered these ambiguities before, and I should emphasize that the existence of these ambiguities doesn't mean that I haven't had fun on any rides here, or felt real excitement at flying down the Great Hill, or relished the dappled sunshine as I ride the shady Palisades river road. It's more that I haven't found cycling to be as fulfilling here as I have in other periods of my life, and a strong indication of this lack of fulfillment, so to speak, is that riding doesn't make me as happy as it used to. And so I don't do it as often, if at all. In contrast to my years in Ithaca and the Bay Area, months can pass in NYC without me touching my bike unless I'm either injured (and thus can't run) or want to get out of the city via something other than a train or zipcar.

The root of this disenchantment remains difficult for me to identify; it's certainly possible that the combination of limited places to ride and many, many people wanting to ride in them makes cycling feel more like a chore to me than it does elsewhere. I won't deny that on weekend mornings when I've gotten a "late" start (i.e. 9:00 am or so) and have ridden into Central Park hoping to complete three or four six-mile loops, I've egressed from Olmstead's idyllic fields after just one--the sheer magnitude and general obliviousness of runners, pedestrians, dog-walkers, rollerbladers, pedi-cabs, horse-drawn carriages, bird-watchers, children, Central Park Conservancy vehicles, and other cyclists can make riding impossible and my generally low blood pressure skyrocket. At the same time, however, riding in the Bay Area isn't always a picnic either; anyone who's had to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge when the bike lane is closed, or through Golden Gate Park or up La Honda on a weekend morning, can attest to the extreme riding congestion there as well. And Ithaca had its own host of cycling-related problems, from non-existent bike lanes/road shoulders to enormous potholes and frost heaves to cyclist-hating dogs (they always seemed to find me on deserted rural roads with spotty cell phone coverage).

My guess, however, is that I'm just in a period in which my love of cycling has abated for a while. I'm actually okay with this abatement, because it's allowed space for other activities to emerge again; it was here in New York that I re-discovered the soothing properties of lap swimming, and that I returned to hiking with a vigor that my Ithaca years in particular lacked. At the same time, my obsession with the TdF has yet to suffer a reprieve, and every Fall, including this one, I spend about a week mulling over whether or not I want to do some cyclocross racing. In fact, when AK emailed me last week and asked if I wanted to race in Highland Park next weekend, I spent an hour mentally listing what I would need to do to overhaul my bike in time.

But I'm not there yet, and one reason I know I'm not is because the day that my joyful love of cycling returns, I won't spend an hour thinking about 'cross race prep--I'll just do the 'cross race prep. Ditto for waking up pre-sunrise and wondering if I really want to go spin through Central Park; instead of wondering, I'll simply hop on my bike, just as when I now wake up to go running, I simply run out the door rather than curl up under the covers and ponder my desire to sprint past Sheep Meadow. It's happened before, and it will happen again.
One day I shall again jump 'cross barriers.
As a result, I do have faith that this love will return at some point, although I can't predict when exactly. I recently went through a bunch of my old graduate school emails, and in the process, I came across the following one, which I'd sent to the cycling team on a chilly, beautiful Fall day five years ago:


Subject: Saturday ride, 10am, CTB

Date: October 14, 2005 2:58:43 PM EDT


At the risk of tempting the rain-gods, I'm posting a ride for tomorrow morning, leaving at 10am from CTB. Right now the forecast says tomorrow will be cloudy with occasional showers, and not too cold, so fingers crossed....

I'm thinking approx 25 miles, 15-17mph, probably Ellis Hollow to Whitechurch to Coddington unless there are any strong objections.

Come ride before snow--not rain--starts to fall!



I remember how much I loved riding down Whitechurch, with the leafy hills rising on either side of the valley and the scent of snow in the air. Someday, and probably fairly soon, I know I'm going to feel that joyfulness--the kind that only two wheels can create--again.

1 comment:

  1. Caitlin, I'm with you. I don't know if it me, or if it's NYC, but it's just not the same. Someday!