Tag Archives: bicycling

Diversions

Dawn Ride – The Joys and Serenity of an Early-Morning Bike Ride

I prepare quietly, in the dark. Step briefly out on my front porch, first cup of coffee in hand, to get a feel for the weather. It will be a cold ride, but there’s little wind. I linger out there a moment longer, relishing that familiar quickening when all that is aging and reluctant in my being gives way to a weightless, bracing anticipation. It is delightful: The shoulders relax, my movements become sure and efficient, there is a lightness. Each small sound – clicks of chains, bottle cages, then straps of helmet and gloves – is for me full of portent.

My bike is dry and clean, and a marvel of design. You buy a bike like this, and it’s worth the price for the exquisite engineering embodied in its feather-light frame. Then you ride it for a thousand miles, and it becomes priceless, an extension of yourself as familiar as your home, and as dear.  I lift it down to the floor next to my low stool, and set my floor pump in position. The tires will have lost a bit of pressure since yesterday’s ride, and I top them off with a couple drops of the plunger, to precisely 120 pounds per square inch. I check the bike over – brake pads properly gapped, chain looks good, derailleur okay, flawless tires. All checks done, I’m out the door to the corner lamppost, waiting.

Then come the strong riders. They coast briskly out of the gray, one from the east and two from the south. Right on time, as usual. “Mornin’ boys” I intone softly – it would seem somehow profane to disturb the solitude with any expression of exuberance just yet. Soon, though. “Ready to do this?” asks the Climber, and we click our cleats onto the pedals. “Le’s go.” I drop my riding glasses and push off as the sun spills over the horizon – awakened, I imagine, by our burgeoning zeal.

This is perhaps my favorite part of the ride. We are loosely arrayed, and our postures are varied. The Grinder is riding at a high cadence, no hands, and is zipping up his wind jersey to his neck as we accelerate. The Climber is down in the drops, out of the saddle and pushing a large gear in slow, exaggerated strokes, warming for a challenge. The Hammer is always ready first, and already displays the form he will have for most of the ride. Then we fall in, silently coalescing into the paceline formation, a peloton in miniature, the most kinetically efficient grouping not only in the realm of human sport, but in the natural world.

My thoughts are expansive as we begin, but that will change soon. By the end of the first climb my world will be small, the externalities becoming only the simple facts of wheels and pavement, the outside world shrinking in some inverse proportion to the drama expanding inside my skin. After an hour, I will again be in full commune with things essential, wondering at the interplay between mind and body, exploring shadowy boundaries that move as I approach them.

The last mile will be a small celebration, with coffee and conversation at the end. Kids, business, travel plans, shared with a common gratitude. This was our hour, and we lived it well.