Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Ride of a Lifetime

Have you ever wondered why we like the things we like? Is it merely association with those things or is there some type of genetic predisposition for certain hobbies? I confess, that in my more logical moments I am tempted to think that things like hobbies are in the same class as whiskey, an acquired taste.

However, I only think that when I am not riding my bicycle. When I am on one of my bikes. I know deep down in my heart of hearts that I was born a bicyclist. I could not have acquired the taste for cycling because nobody in my family but me is a cyclist. Therefore, being a bicyclist must be in the genetic code. I must have some latent genetic attribute because since my first bike (A bright red one from Sears that I got for Christmas in 1966) my favorite thing to do has always been to ride a bike.

Bicycling is a strange hobby. I know of no other sport or hobby that elicits such devotion. Not only are cyclist devoted to the sport but also to the actual equipment of the sport. It seems to me that tennis players play the racket that gives them the best shots. Runners are loyal to a shoe maker only so long as those shoes fit. Golfers are always looking for a better club regardless of brand. I have a friend whose husband is an ex-world class badminton player. He couldn't care less about what company made his equipment so long as it was good stuff. Cyclist, by comparison are often very loyal to brands and companies

I've never seen a runner, tennis player or golfer with the name of a club manufacturer tattooed on their body. They may enjoy the sport but they are not loyal to the equipment they use in the way that cyclist are. How many tennis players have custom built rackets? Maybe Leighton Hewitt or Andrea Agassi but not your normal Joe Ballwhacker. In cycling it is not uncommon to see even middle aged riders with the word "Campagnolo" tattooed somewhere prominent. There are literally thousands of custom, built to order bicycle frames made every year. Are there any companies that make custom basketballs? Here are two that make custom bicycle Frames: Here & Here

Do runners, tennis players or golfers have a web site comparable to the Campy only web site? I don't think so.

I have traveled all over the world. Wherever I go I look for bicycle shops. But you know what, I'm not the only one. When I worked in a bicycle shop in the 1980's it used to happen several times a year. Some tourist or business traveler would just stop by to look around. Do tennis players look for tennis shops in London, Phukett or Beijing just to go in and say "hi" to the shop employees? Not as far as I know. Yet bicyclist love to do this. The highlight of my vacations is always finding a bike shop to purchase a tube or cable that I might not even need and could certainly get near my home. I do this because when I am around bicyclist, wherever they are, whoever they are, I am around people who, even if I don't like them are like souls. People who understand what it means to be a cyclist. In a strange way, they are family.

Cycling also changes your perception of the world around you in such a fundamental way that it is difficult, if not impossible to explain it to non-cyclist. You experience the world differently on a bicycle than you do in an automobile or even on foot. Part of this is having to dodge traffic and see your family, neighbors and friends as potential murderers in their cars as they intentionally or inadvertently try to run you down. However, these changes go beyond this simple aspect of self-preservation.

There is a sensation of speed of grace of elegance that is inherent in riding a bicycle that simply is not found in almost any other activity with the possible exception of sailing. When you are a cyclist you see the world through a different gestalt. You see the world not so much as a place but as art and art through which you move as a living sculpture. I think it is a good way to see the world.

There are simply not words to explain the pleasure of cresting the last hill on an afternoon ride and coasting the last 1/2 mile home. If you have never smelt the fragrance after a summer shower while riding along a county road then I pity you. The sense of accomplishment you get when you finish your first 100 mile ride is incomparable. The simple joy at moving faster than you can run under your own power is a pleasure that is surely the most intense on earth.

If you haven't ridden a bicycle lately or even since childhood then I would encourage you to get a bike and rediscover the joy of cycling. You won't be disappointed. You might also find that you were born to be a cyclist.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The bicyclist blogger

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