Pedal Forward

Imagine yourself on a road. Alone. No cars are passing. No one is outside. Not even a bird chirps. It is just after dawn. The blue and yellow light of the sky paint everything in a mellow light. Your breath turns into white puffs of heat in the surrounding cold morning air. You stand on this road, seemingly in some sort of familiar-looking neighborhood, in jeans, tennis shoes, a grey jacket, and a hat for the cold.  No one is there, not one thing stirs. In that moment, it appears only you are capable of movement. You and your bicycle. For a second you had forgotten about it. Now, you place your hands on the handlebars and feel the rubber grips in your palms. With a swift movement you mount the bike, feeling the pedals preparing themselves beneath your feet. Completely aware of your balance and weight on the bike, the instinctual fear of falling off has been long gone. You’ve done this too many times to be scared. Sitting comfortably atop your seat, you sigh in anticipation. Suddenly you realize the neighborhood around you is gone. The road you comfortably sat on is now the top of a hill: a wave of black pavement descending continually until distance leads you to squint towards its end. A quick shudder of anxiety muscles past your calm nerves only to be quickly stifled by your desire to ride down the hill, to feel the wind rush against your face, and feel the thrill of adrenaline enter your veins. One deep breath. A few short pedals toward the edge of the hill. There’s hardly an instant to think before you feel your wheels gaining momentum. You begin to accelerate. The increasing speed becomes intense to the point of blurring your vision from all angles. You soon realize you are no longer human. You are simply an object resisting the current as you move forwards: a kite in the sky, a fish in the ocean, a bicycle speeding down a hill.

Every now and then, you can feel yourself becoming human again. The ride gets progressively faster until no more speed can be gained. Doubts and a pang of fear jostle you into panic. How do you stop it? How hard would you hit the brakes? Where does the hill end? For fear that your using the bakes might cause more harm than good you come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is wait for the hill’s end. Knowing your plan of action brings you a moment’s solitude from the chaos. But only for a moment when you realize your front tire has a small hole in it. The speed and pressure of the ride have taken its toll on the tire and you feel your handlebars slip from you. Control of the bike’s direction is no longer in your hands. Instead, what you once felt was underneath your power has moved from your grasp because of that same authority you believed was yours. It seems the impending crash will bring not only pain but a touch of white-hot irony. Eventually your sporadic turns anchor you and your instrument straight into the ground. Every toss and turn brings with it a sharp sensation of pain. One in your neck, others in your arms, legs, knees. You don’t tumble for two long down the hill when you fall limp against a curb hidden in the shade of a tree. As your fall comes to a stop you witness your bike tumble over itself past you only to stop a little further down the decline. Everything hits you at once, your pain, broken bike, and the small pinch of irony scalding your back like fire or was that just more of the pain part? Too hurt to cry or even tend to your wounds, you watch the scene around you slowly fade.

Months later, you joke of the incident with yourself. It was a mistake of inexperience perhaps? Whatever the case, it won’t happen again. Of that you are sure. Still though, you decline to get your bike fixed, fear of your crash still manages to haunt you. Doesn’t it? You sit, sometimes, on a curb and watch others race their bikes past you or in circles near you. At the same time that you miss riding, you are scared. Shitless. You wait instead for a time when you feel you will be ready again. Ready to ride down the streets in complete blithe, to circle parking lots, pedal down nature’s trails. Ready to get back on your bike. And one day you open your door expecting to run an errand, maybe something as simple as checking the mail, there it is. Your bike. Just as you remember. Smooth rubber handlebars, sturdy pedals, thick and operable tires. Completely new and refurbished. You stand for a moment in awe. For a split second you hesitate, you shudder. Maybe even gasp even? Then you step forward in your grey jacket, jeans, tennis shoes, and usual hat for the cold and grip the handlebars, letting the excitement of the bicycle fill you again like it used to. Your cheeks flush with the hot feeling of adrenaline rushing through you, you mount the bicycle slowly but without one hint of unfamiliarity. The road unfolds itself before you again. You tightly grip the bars, deeply breathing in the anticipation in the oxygen nearest you.

You begin to pedal forward…


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