Street lamps, dogs, parked cars, and cups of coffee whiz past me as I push my world view by faster and faster with my pedals. It feels like sitting on a teacup ride, motions blurring and gravity pulling until there’s that moment of almost-flight right at the end of the hill.
And then there is the bus, pulling over without a indication and resting in my path, or the car that takes its chance, feeling faster than my wheels and roaring around me through the bike lane and my forward momentum. I squeeze the breaks as hard as I can, wishing I had gotten new those new pads at the shop last Sunday and hoping that I don’t fly over the handle bars, hoping that this time I used just the right amount of pressure to pull me to safety — but not too fast.
I started across the country believing that cycling made the world a better place, made people in cars happier for seeing you trying to ease up on our downward spiral towards a fiery existence on earth, but I ended the ride with a single mantra.
“Please, not today,” I murmured again and again as we slalomed our way down mountain passes that heated our breaks up to wheel-warping speeds or watched motorcycles pass my friends with just a hair’s breath between them.
Since then, I’ve arrived in a new city, where I spend a majority of my travel time on the back of my trusty steed: Xiao Sa (click for explanation). While I clenched all sets of cheeks and squealed “Please don’t kill me!” on my way to Seattle, now that I’m here I have added a bit of a swagger to my mantra.
I hit the streets in the morning, zig-zagging (carefully) through traffic, letting out a guttural “hey” and “don’t effin kill me” as taxis swing towards me for no apparent reason and drivers leave off their turn signals to help me wake up, caffeine free (thanks! I am trying to cut back).
Cycling, at its best, feels like the world is set to spin quicker by your very own design. But as you pass over cracks that definitely could break your mother’s back (or yours, or, if you have a cycling-mad mother like me, both of your backs), avoid glass shattered artfully around giant potholes taking up an entire lane, and swerve around pedestrians that don’t hesitate before stepping blindly into the street, my mantra is the thing that binds me to the here and now.
I was raised on the back of the bicycles of two movement-worshiping, efficiency-obsessed dreamers. While the terror of the precarious life on two wheels didn’t hit me then, my love of momentum was set into motion. So, I suppose my mantra is right on point — because I can’t die now when there is so much left to experience.