“It’s not an old-fashioned if you leave out the bitters.”
A bead of sweat slips down the curve of my nose, settling on the top of my lip. I see the pedestrian ticker counting down the seconds to Don’t Walk 200 feet away with four seconds left and I think, “Easy,” as my hands slip to the drops. I rise out of the saddle and the taste of salt fuels me as my cranks turn faster. My eyes flicker to the car ahead – no turn signal, no fade to the right. They flicker to the far right corner of the intersection – no pedestrians, no one turning. They flicker to the approaching left hand turn lane – no cars. They flicker again to the car to my left. I line up with the driver so he can see me. Then they’re back to the countdown, at one second now, and I hammer through the intersection as the light changes to yellow, settle back into my seat and laugh at the line of cars stuck at the light.
This is my commute. Every morning, I’m engaged and excited and clipped into my bike. On the bike, roads aren’t point A to point B, they are the point. And instead of the quickest route, you look for the windiest, steepest and most unexpected. You look for roads that no one takes. No one would because these roads are more than just routes – they’re destinations in themselves. And you are present for the whole journey, pumping and pulling on your handlebars, pushing through the sprint to take your position in the lane as the shoulder disappears. Your eyes are on the road, on the lane, on the horizon, on the view, on the tire in front of you, on the compatriot beside you, on where you are and what you need to do only in that moment to stay in line, stay strong, stay up and stay in it.
Even when all your focus is on speeding ahead, you can’t help but notice a road you never saw before peeling off quietly to the right and think, “Where does that road go? Where can it take me? Who built it, what’s on it and when can I come back for it?”
Cycling brought back my curiosity to explore. It introduced wonder where there was previously road rage, impatience at traffic-filled highways and the complacency of headphones and subways. You see your commute differently from the bike. You see the oddities you’d glaze by in the car: things discarded and shattered, things hidden amongst the trees. The mundaneness of infrastructure can hold the tiniest treasures like personalized No Trespassing signs and lobster mailboxes, boxes of cookies left out for hikers and the perfectly timed lemonade stand. When roads are the adventure, miles and meters become more than numbers that tick by. They become things you can revel in, appreciate and look forward to.
Whirring, click shift, click shift click, in and out and in through your teeth, your heart beating in your ears, up and around and down and up and down again. This is the flow. This is standing on the climb in rhythm with the road and your motives and your pedal stroke. This is nothing but your body in sync with the world around it, charging toward the horizon, the crest, the days and years ahead with the simplicity of round and round, in and out. This is cycling, and it doesn’t just make you see things differently, it makes you see them at all.