Friday, May 8, 2009

The Answer

A friend, who happens to not be a cyclist, once asked me what I enjoy about cycling.  I think he was mainly making polite conversation.  Even so, he might have been mildly curious about what aspect holds particular attraction for me.  He might have been trying to get at what specifically is the reward to spinning pedals, round and round, for hours without end, in weather he thinks is best endured indoors.

I had not answered this question before and I did not have a prepared reply.  The usual questions are how I deal with traffic, or how can I stand to sit on such a hard, tiny saddle, or what kind of unique athletic power do I have that enables me to ride to a location more than 5 miles away.  This question was new, and I liked it.  So I paused for maybe 1 or 2 seconds to ponder.

During that brief pause, something surprising happened.  I couldn’t answer.  It wasn’t because I couldn’t come up with anything.  Instead, it was as if I had been slammed with a wave.  A flood of information came to mind.  My brain raced with various aspects of cycling.  It created a checklist of a thousand items and put a “check” by each one.  I was inundated with answers and had so many things running through my head that I was paralyzed.  Like my old computer when I ask it to do too many things at once.  Thinking of all these things I really, really love prompted excitement and my heart rate increased.  A friend asks a simple question, and I freak.  I know how much I enjoy cycling, but my emotional response shocked even me.

I finally gave an answer.  It probably only took 3 or 4 seconds to work myself into this hyper-alert state, and then I said, “Everything.  I like everything about cycling.”  Being all pumped up with all these ideas, that answer was the opening of a flood gate.  It all gushed out.  I talked about flying down hills, suffering during a race, rambling through the countryside with friends, buying new gear, fitness benefits, washing the bike…on and on it went.  He's a pretty big guy and a former football player, so I left out the part about shaving my legs.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is that he and I were on a multi-hour car trip and he was my prisoner.  After we arrived, the pressure within had be released and I was feeling great.  I was looking forward to my next ride.

It was a very quiet drive home.  I must have given a great and complete answer because I don’t think he ever asked me about cycling again.