Tuesday, March 29, 2005

NAKED BEFORE THE MIRROR

I'll never forget my high school English teacher. Her name was Mrs. Revelle, and I used to hate her for the way she never cut me any slack, always pressing me for perfection with every assignment. Funny how things look differently now that I am an adult. That hatred has been replaced with gratitude for making me work so hard, to realize my potential and use it. I thought about her tonight while I was riding the singlespeed. Curious how similar that bike and Mrs. Revelle are. Each time I ride the singlespeed, with every hill, I curse the lack of gears, forcing myself to stand and strain with every muscle in my body just to reach the crest, always pushing myself for more than I think I can give. And yet, despite the pain, I know with each agonizing pedal stroke, I'm gaining strength, learning to anticipate the trail ahead and carry my momentum; in essence, learning to ride all over again, to become one with my bike. The singlespeed is my best friend and my worst enemy. It liberates me from the drudgery of gears, trying to correctly anticipate a shift, the worries of a drivetrain. There is no chain skip, no mis-shifting, and a beautifully uncluttered bar and frame. But it also strips me totally naked and holds me up before the mirror, exposing my every weakness as a rider, subtly reminding me that despite years of riding, I still have so much to learn. The singlespeed is a tough and demanding teacher, accepting nothing less than my absolute best, lest I have to dismount and humbly walk a hill that I could easily ride with a granny gear. It makes no allowances for weakness, no coddling when I'm tired, and tolerates no whining, whimpering or complaining. After all, it was my choice to go the singlespeed route. Yet, I'm drawn to it like a moth to the flame. When I ride the singlespeed, I am consumed. Riding it requires everything of me - I have no time or energy to worry about my job, responsibilities, the mess we humans have put our planet in, or even whether or not I'm being dropped on the ride. It envelops me, smothers me, drowns me, while at the same time frees me, inspires me, and revives me. It is my hell and my heaven. I can't escape it's siren's call, and I don't want to. When I ride the singlespeed, we are indeed one.

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