I’ll admit it. I like speed. There’s a certain feeling I get on a mountain bike that I’ve never been able to replicate no matter how fast I’ve driven my car or how steep a hill I had taken my skateboard down.
More recently, however, I’ve been riding with a couple of riders who are at a lower skill and fitness level than me so I am forced to ride a lot slower then when I’m out for my weekly hammer fest with my riding buddies. There is a benefit to going slower and that is I see things in a very different way than when I’m really “maching”.
A little while ago I went for a ride with my wife up a trail that I’ve been going on for decades when I heard her say, “Ooh! Ooh! Honey, look!” and she pointed to a kind of lizard that I had never seen before. As lizards go it was beautiful. While the top of the lizard looked a bit dappled like a fence lizard its sides were a deep vibrant blue like blown glass. I probably wouldn’t have ever noticed it unless she hadn’t said something.
Another time I was riding with a couple of buddies of mine and were just flying down this scarcely used trail when all of a sudden the guy in the lead hauls on his brakes and came to a screeching. He had stopped so fast that I thought there was a rattlesnake in the middle trail or something but he just pointed to the side of the trail and said, “Look! Lupines!”
Even while hiking or backpacking I’ll often find myself analyzing the trail. Before I know it I am jotting down mental notes, “Let’s see, if I were riding this trail how would I drop down my front wheel here? How would I negotiate this root section? How could I carry enough momentum around this corner to get up a rock face?”
When I am able to disengage the rider portion of my brain the world becomes a lot bigger. I become begin to notice of the smell of the soil, how the sun feels on my skin, I find myself dazzled by the interplay of the shadows of leaves and the ground and I become acutely aware of the sounds of wildlife. All of these things, however, disappear at race speeds when the world is reduced to tunnel vision like series of blurs and bumps.
A little while ago I heard that a bicycle industry buddy of mine was pulled over and was given a speeding ticket on his motorcycle. Although his aging legs and lungs have slowed him down a bit on his self-made fixed gear road bike, but put him on a motorcycle and he’s still an adrenaline junkie. When it comes to speed I’m the same way, I’m hooked. To me flying down a twisty single track on a bike may be the best high there is. On the other hand slowing down has it’s own rewards too. Not to get all whacky and philosophical on y’all but it’s the difference between just passing through the world and being part of the world.
Next time, I promise to try to keep up with the fast riders. No, really. This time for sure.