Another passive-aggressive email hits my inbox with a loud, familiar DING. The vein above my right eye twitches. The knot in my back, just to the left of my shoulder blade, tenses up and sends its infliction to an area behind my right eye. A dull headache takes its week-long place in my skull. I’ve named the twitch in my eye and the knot in my back after the two coworkers who are largely responsible for their existence.
It’s 11:39am. It’s only Monday.
Already needing a break from the drudgery that’s only just begun, I open Instagram on my phone and wait for the dopamine secretion. A temporary escape, a fleeting thrill. Then comes the self-loathing. I see pictures of people on far away beaches, with bodies sculpted and shaped not unlike those in magazines and underwear ads. I’m not as fit, or as attractive, or as rich. It’s the whole “keeping up with the Joneses” problem, except now the Joneses are in your fucking pocket.
The news app on my phone gets a tap. Death. Violence. Grift. It makes Instagram look even more fictionalized, unrealistic version of reality. Both the underwear models on Insta and the business people and politicians (I guess I could just say crooks for both) in the news are a long way from my tiny home office. I don’t feel like I fit in either world. I imagine most people feel the same way.
DING. Another email. Another twitch. Another surge of pain straight to my skull. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Finally, it’s time. I shut down my computer. I go to my closet in my home office and peel off the work clothes that make me look like a mattress salesman. On go my riding clothes, my helmet, and shoes. Filling my water bottles, I stand a little more upright than I’d done at any point during the day. During the walk to the garage, I’m even humming a Mariah Carey tune. Loudly. Probably way too loudly.
As I ride to the VASA, the cool air helps to numb my headache. There’s something about sitting on a bicycle that stretches my back out in just such a way that the knot in my back isn’t nearly as noticeable.
I hit the first uphill and my heart rate shoots up. I’m out of breath. My legs burn with lactic acid building in my muscles. I forget about the emails. I forget about my lack of six pack. I forget about the news of the world that usually weighs on me. All I can think about is pushing into the pedals as to keep from rolling backwards down the hill.
I have two hours. I’m not staring into a screen. I’m not at someone’s beck and call. I’m not reacting like Pavlov’s dog to every ding, red dot, and meeting request. It’s me, a bicycle, and the natural world. There’s no one else out here, save for a few other riders in similar states of bliss. We don’t stop to chat. It’s not why we’re out there today. A nod and a wave is sufficient. We’re in our sanctuaries; bikes, woods, and sweat. It’s unkind to bug someone during prayer.
As I pull my bike back into the garage, I take note of how different my body feels. My headache has largely gone. My knot is no longer complaining next to my shoulder blade. I’m not as irritable, frustrated, or defeated. In fact, I have infinitely more energy now than I did prior to my ride. For the first time all day, I feel like a real human being.
Bike rides aren’t a cure. They require frequent doses to have any impact on one’s health. Scheduling them into a busy life is difficult, but it’s also a necessity. Bikes keep me from getting fat, angry, discouraged, and unpleasant. If I can piss away 2.5 hours a day on social media and Netflix, I sure as hell have time to ride.
Riding is like a daily baptism; trade the water of the river for salty, crusty sweat. The post-ride euphoria is a reminder of how fucking good I have it; my daily frustrations are so trivial that most people in the world would kill to have my problems. For the moment, I feel invincible. This is how we’re meant to be – alert, fit, healthy, outside. Most importantly, on two wheels.
When is the next ride?