Any return from time off the bike is always met with a peculiar mixture of anticipation and apprehension. I will be excited to return to the bike, but on some level I’ve become accustomed to not getting on my bike every day. Not riding is easy, and we are creatures of inertia – once the rhythm of the daily ride is broken, it takes a push to slip back into the current that carries us to fitness.
I will be apprehensive to discover how much of my form has left me; I was strong before the break, and some of that strength will have left me. I can always hurt my legs, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I still can. But pain feels different depending on which side of it you’re standing; in fitness, suffering feels farther removed, as if we somehow control the pain. When fitness has deserted us, however, we are at its mercy; we are in a hole from which the only escape lies through withstanding the suffering being heaped down upon us in shovel loads from above.
After a week off the bike to rest a knee annoyance incurred during my Festum Prophetae Hour ride, I found myself riding in the early morning rain. This was a wispy rain rain of lukewarm water, the kind of rain we normally find in a Seattle summer. I chose a route with few climbs, so I might not force my legs. The route started with a dozen or so kilometers of gradually rising road before dropping into a valley where the road pitches steeply upward for a short while before continuing on its way down to the seaside. My legs felt magical on the climb; I could push on them and the bike would go. This is why I love Cycling; how can something so rich and complex be so elemental – all we need do is push on the pedals.
I fell into a beautiful rhythm as I rode easily along the twisting road, unusually aware of how good I felt. There must be a tailwind, I thought to myself, as I rose out of the saddle to push over a small rise in the road. Not long after, I reached the turn-around point and found unequivocally that indeed there had been a tailwind. I lowered my chin in resignation to the work that lay ahead to return home. It occurred to me that this, a headwind, is the only kind of wind they have in Flanders.
On most days, I would fixate on the speed that this headwind was wringing from my machine; the most frustrating thing about a headwind is the small return in speed for the amount of pressure in the legs and lungs. But today, I had no designs on speed. I had no designs on returning home at a certain time, for that matter. There was only me and the bike. It is only on rides like these that we may truly appreciate the gifts of dimension that La Vie Velominatus can provide when we are willing to receive them.
Riding into a headwind, with the air swirling about your head and rustling the nearby forest and meadows, forms a lovely orchestra of woods, reeds, and winds. If it wasn’t normally so frustrating, it might be my favorite kind of riding.
Vive la Vie Velominatus.