I wasn’t anywhere near old enough to hold a driver’s license but my dad had already bought me a motorcycle. It was a late seventies BMW R100 RS, dark blue. I loved that bike; I polished it fortnightly even though it never left the garage. I spent hours sitting on it, twisting the throttle and squeezing the clutch, diving in and out of turns on a twisty road somewhere in my imagination. My dad sold the bike not long after I got serious about Cycling, making the shrewd observation that if I was able to land myself in the emergency room as often as I did under my own power, then from a Darwinian standpoint my chances of survival would be dramatically decreased by the introduction of a 1000cc engine.
To this day, I love speed. I feel it in that layer between skin and muscle that science will tell you doesn’t exist but that anyone who has ever taken a risk will tell you does. On a bicycle, it doesn’t even have to be high speed; descending, cruising along a valley road, or climbing – any speed that comes as a result of that familiar pressure in my legs and lungs is a thrill.
Cornering at speed will amplify the feeling of speed as your muscles press against the change in tangental velocity. But even the slower speeds of climbing can produce the exciting effects of speed; diving into a tight switchback on a fast climb can provide the distinctive exhilaration that comes with needing to brake and lean while climbing. There is no sensation in Cycling that will make one feel more Pro than needing to control your speed while going uphill.
Cobblestones and gravel also provide their unique doorway into the feeling of speed. The bouncing of the machine under you as you push a big gear along the road will amplify the sensation of going fast with the transitions from tarmac to rough roads and back again playing their own part to demonstrate speed through the power of contrast.
Riding along a road that has a lot of shrubbery or tall grass that hugs the roadside, my peripheral vision will quietly inform me that the blurred motion at my side is the direct result of my own burning engine and the effort I’m putting into the pedals. To experience under our own strength that which others require a motor to accomplish is what makes us stand apart. We are active participants in speed. We are Cyclists.