The story started with a picture I took, maybe an instagram, I don’t remember anymore. I don’t know why I snapped it, except that the pile of stuff on my seat struck something in me. When I looked at the picture a little later, I just starting writing and how all the stuff had gotten to where it was, and there was something kind of naked, kind of embarrassing in it, so I went after that, and got this.
I like stripping it all off right there in the parking lot, standing beside the truck, either cab-ward or hood-ward of the open door to shield whichever side seems most likely to unexpectedly host a spectator. I like peeling the armwarmers first, if I have them, over my gloves inside out, then the jersey unzipped instead of over my head then easing the bib straps off my shoulders so they dangle as I stand wobbly for a few seconds before raising each foot in turn onto the lip of the open doorway to lessen the bend I make to depress the buckle and pull out the serrated tongue and rip loose the straps. I like this moment, sock-footed on the tarmac, and in an undershirt, most often sleeveless, damp with sweat, and me besotted and insouciant with the efforts I’ve just some short time ago put out, and I like deciding whether to take the shirt off, too, or to instead just pull on a fresh T over it, then maybe a jacket or just a vest, and where is my club cap, and why do I still have my gloves on and maybe I should leave them on because it is chilly now with the sun disappearing. I like feeling furtive and vaguely criminal pulling my bibs off while I stand there, and I like, too, the little unreasonable instant of panic when one leg band or another snags on my heel, and I like sliding jeans over my calves slick with embro then yanking them up over my knees and quads and spasming glutes. I like stuffing and placing and basketball-shooting my pieces of gear into my old, old gear bag, and sighing and tossing my gear bag onto the passenger seat, and I like having the front wheel set there behind the seats, and I like looking in the rearview and seeing my bike racked in the bed.
I like the next day when I don’t feel like riding and it is okay. I like getting onto a city bike I think because I want a sandwich but really, I realize once I’m out there in the day pedaling, actually because I wanted to be out there in the day pedaling even when I didn’t want to go out on a ride. I like it that I never have to ride, not really. I like it that even when it feels I have to ride, it is still a choice. Sometimes I have to write and sometimes I have to edit and sometimes I have to go coach soccer or do some of the other things I love but am still obligated to do—but riding only ever happens at my own whim. I like it that even when I don’t want to ride and I do, I do it because I want to ride when I don’t want to.
I like it that little Emmaus, population 11,349, has a violin store and a Superfund site, and two bars where you can get a proper geuze, an Oud Beersel or a Cantillon, and I like it that I can ride by all of these things in somewhat less than thirty minutes even just goofing around. And I like goofing around on a bike.
I like carrying a sandwich and chips and drink in a front basket. I like the wind today. I like it, actually, on most days, more than I used to, which is not saying much because I used to despise it or dread it or despise it and dread it, but that was before Pearson and Donaghy and those guys taught me a little different, taught me I ought to on a bike in a race like what others did not.
I like it that I rode my race bike into work this morning and it is resting there on a hook when I get back from lunch and will be there when work is done and I want to pedal over to the bike shop to have a beer and talk about last night’s race and this weekend’s races and about the various forecasts for the wind, and about front baskets, and about goofing around. I like all this, and I like liking all this, and in that I am pretty much the likes of you, enamored as we are and infused as we are with the staccato of a serrated tongue exiting a shoe buckle, and the pleasure of carrying lunch in a wire basket, and knowing the wind not as weather but as classroom and companion, and all such details and sensations as are lost to most.
Originally published in The Selection, April 20, 2012