Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ARCHIVE PIECE: The Way of the Cyclist [essay from May 2009]

“Don’t worry; it’s easy, just like riding a bicycle.” For most people, this common idiom makes sense relating to the ease of bicycle riding. For me, this phrase is an irony, as my life’s greatest trials and breakthroughs have been achieved on the bike, and those successes were anything but easy. To me, “just like riding a bicycle” means pedaling hard against cruel gear settings and pounding for hour-long minutes up endless hills that are working with the sun and wind to force my wayward endeavor into forlorn failure. But, time and again, I find myself casually looking down that last endless hill and wondering where the time went. For every ride I’ve started, I’ve managed to make it through and realize my true place on the bike and its true placement of my power to achieve.
          From the start, bicycles have been a fundamental part of my life. I don’t even remember when I had training wheels. Though it was really my third bike, I recall my “first” bike being a simple mountain bike that boasted features new to me, like gear-shifters and stronger tires. Still, I just saw this object called a bicycle for what it was; two wheels, a frame with handles, and a somewhat uncomfortable seat. I failed to see the true potential both mount and rider had if harnessed properly, despite varying aggravations. I owe it to my parents, both cyclists in their day, who encouraged a more in-depth practice in the art of road cycling. With the acquisition of a new racing bike on my 11th birthday and a keen wanting to discover an athletic potential besides arduous running, I donned a little cycling jersey, checked my tire pressure, and followed my headstrong father out onto the road of a new cycling career. I sometimes wonder how I would have felt knowing that, four short years later, he would be straining to catch up to me.
          While those pre-teen years saw great strides in my own world, I still suffered from the child’s instinctive repulsion of hard work. Then the wonders of the outside world broke through to me in the form of one mighty, awe-inspiring man: Lance Armstrong. Massing spectacular Tour de France race victories year after year, surviving a life-changing battle with cancer, and slamming into every cycling competition he entered to win hard, I had found my personal guiding star on a bike. I still cannot believe some of the things Armstrong has achieved and I’m never at a loss to marvel at the sheer force of determination that he found within himself. But, over time, I learned the big surprise: though his career is unique, there are thousands of world-class athletic cyclists who all tore down their physical inhibitions and did great deeds on the bike for few other reasons than love of the sport. For a growing cyclist, these titans of the road were as key as the bicycle itself in shattering the fear of hard work and suffering to bring rise to a passion for the two-wheeled challenge. With a capable ability on the rise and iconic role models to follow the legacy of, I found the purpose of my choice and prepared to advance onward.
 As I ride today, finding contentment with just the air, the road, and my bicycle sailing on, I still scarcely stare down the horizon with valiant thoughts of strength and accomplishment.  I don’t really have to; if I continue to strive to be the best cyclist I can be, than simply getting out onto the road to return a few hours of satisfied workout later is enhancing who I am on its own… with the help of some focused attitude while pushing that next winding uphill.
For all my incredible influences, from famous professional athletes to my caring and supportive parents, I believe that there was, and still is, one aspect of my ability for cycling that has inspired me in a way that few other moments in my life could equal: the distance I traveled and the self-development I built came from myself. When I remember that I found the willpower to drive up insane hill-roads and across arid desert miles to reach those victorious finishes of each workout, then I know that I can race for any journey I choose to chase after. I’ll find myself looking back on life’s challenge and think it easy as riding a bicycle.

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