37 tagged with #pedaling

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hands-free


it feels like flight. it feels like a jittery, shaky, flat flight, the moment i let go with my hands and sit up straighter, leaning back to center my weight over the seat post. i still have to grip the top tube with my knees, awkwardly, asymmetrically. the lack of style irritates me, but i know i have room to improve.

it feels like flight when i open up my chest, pulling my shoulders back, spreading my palms wide to the sky, inviting the wind around me. it feels like flight because the air wraps around my torso, the bike and my body hurtling forwards on its own.

fear curls around my spine when i remember that this means my hands are far away from the brakes. but the flight is worth it.

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06 September 2018 21:37


almost like flying


i slingshot myself into a sharp right hand turn, knowing that if i take too long, the blind curve uphill from me might emit a car moving faster than the reasonable 25 mph speed limit. and still, i have to throttle my legs until i'm flying faster than i can pedal, unbuttoned shirt streaming behind me like a cape, having faith that no cars will pull out in front of me while i race to the stoplight at the bottom, half a mile away.

trees and signs blur together, but i see a group of people waiting for a bus, and an old man in the crowd makes eye contact with me and smiles. i'm already smiling, a manic grin of adrenaline that can't stretch any wider.

my brakes sing even if i feather them carefully, vulcanized rubber buzzing against dished rims. i know i should replace my front wheel. i know i should replace my brake pads. i know i should tighten my headset.

one more day, one more commute that didn't end in catastrophe.

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30 August 2018 20:24


rain, three acts


act one

i roll my eyes up at the sky, whispering, just relax. relax, clouds. they hang heavy overhead, tight with water, grumbling as they roll past. i have a headache, sympathy pressure from the leading edge of the storm front pushing against the house.

release your burden, clouds. you have carried this water so far.

act two

i slipped through a break in the clouds, hovering under an awning while the storm releases its third wind. water pools past people's ankles as they scatter across the street.

"it looks like it's brightening up," a woman tells her blind companion. "it's brightning up for sure. this will pass soon."

act three

flash flood alerts explode across everyone's phones, even the one hooked up to the speakers that was playing music. we can all see it; the warehouse windows overlook the river, the skyline, the hills. a blot of grey pulls over us.

i have to bike home in this, i tell my friends. the water reaches my pedals on the downstrokes; it runs off hillsides and makes waterfalls that spill over the sidewalk. i fly through the curtain, eyes and mouth closed, hoping it hasn't washed broken glass my way. but it all smells like sewage, a day of rain filling up the drains and backwashing blackwater along the street.

it's fine, i tell myself. my tetanus shot hasn't expired yet. i'll keep riding and let the fresh rain wash away the dirt.

the skies clear before i get home.

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21 June 2018 00:21


nights


i remember the first time i rode this path in the dark, a small paved trail following an old water course next to the railroad tracks, slipping under highways that sound like distant rivers and crumbling slopes choked with vines. i didn't believe in running lights, but i'd also never tried to navigate an unfamiliar path so blindly. i stopped and pulled off into the grass because i saw an approaching eye in the next set of curves. the rider stopped and yelled when the beam passed over me, just as startled as i was.

'are you okay?'

'yeah, i'm fine.' i waved the other rider on. just spooked. didn't want to talk to anyone.

tonight, my battery flickered on and off, my pants moist and clinging to my legs after a recent downpour. my shadow spread long in front of me, cast by an approaching rider from behind. at the same time as i was getting passed, an animal darted across our paths.

'holy crap! a possum! yee haw! what a great night!' yelled the other rider.

'hell yeah!' i replied, giving a honk on my rubber horn.

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16 May 2018 22:40


songs


i tune my bicycle the way i've tuned pianos, violins, guitars. there's a physicality, a rhythm, a sonorance that i need to understand. this front wheel is old enough to vote; dented rims compromise my braking ability, and the spokes freeze in place even as i rotate the nipples. i pluck each spoke and listen to the sound it makes, knowing by feel what is too tight or too loose. they snap with a startling pop when the most recent set of adjustments settle in.

wheels can be assessed for trueness in three reasonable ways: lateral centering of the rim (if you roll the wheel, does the rim seem to drift from left to right?), radial consistency (is the distance between each point on the rim and the center of the hub the same?), and dishing (is the rim centered on the axle?). guides that describe how to check trueness refer to spinning the wheel in place and checking for uneven scraping; over time, i've learned that this is an auditory cue, rather than a visual one.

i spent weekends one summer riding over to the shop, locking up my bike, and going straight to the stack of trashed wheels in the corner that no one would touch. the truing stands were unfortunately located in the middle of the workshop, so i had to learn to tune out the chatter of other mechanics and visitors if i wanted to have a productive wheel truing session at all. sometimes, i wore headphones to tune them out, keeping a finger against the calipers so i could feel the vibration that the scrape would make. i worked with my eyes closed; the spoke wrench fit into my palm so well that it felt like turning the nipples with my bare fingers. the wheel hummed as it spun, and i hummed back. each click of the calipers rang out through the hollow rims, a steady rhythm that cued to me exactly which spokes needed adjustment.

but when i learned to tune my piano, it was by taste, not sound. upper notes had three strings per key, middle notes had two; when the strings were not aligned perfectly with each other, my mouth felt uncomfortable, like tasting a rotten pistachio i didn't expect. i'd bring each string up, down, far past the correct point to taste the worst it can get, then ease it slowly into harmony with my tongue pressed against the roof of my mouth, tasting a cool, creamy smoothness when the notes were corrected.

my mother cooked fish once while i was trying to tune my piano, and the briny smells distracted me so much that i needed a piece of chocolate in my mouth to counteract the fish, and then hoped to taste the strings by leaning my cheek against the wood and feeling the vibrations through my cheekbones, wiggling the roof of my mouth, settling in my sinuses.

this is touch, maybe. this is sound and smell and taste. sometimes, i wonder, if i ever use my eyes for anything at all.

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15 April 2018 22:47


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