Thursday, June 10

Dabbling in Quantum Mechanics

Early in the week I had tire/tube issues with my road bike. After changing a rear tube and extracting a hunk of glass form my front (carbon) tire I discovered that my rear wheel was crazy wobbly. It was late and I was fed up with the whole affair. My mountain bike had two flats at once and when I bought new tubes at REI a couple weeks ago I got the wrong size. So needless to say I'm running out of bikes.

Mandy suggested that I "borrow" her wheels so I could go ahead and ride on Tuesday. I did.

I finally got around to working on my wheels last night. I stripped off my rear tire and put the rim on the trainer and gave it my best shot at truing the wheel. I've never tried to true a wheel before and considering that I did pretty good. I improved the horizontal and vertical, though when I was working on the vertical I stripped one of the spokes and it was the one that needed the most cranking.

The wheel is passable, but now that I know how it works I want to go back and do it right.

I rode Ship Rock Road through Red Rocks this morning. For some reason Titans Road was closed at the top end. Not sure why. Looked like there's going to be a concert or something soon, so maybe that's why.

The ride just wasn't long enough. They put this place far too close...


Why I Ride

I’m 36 years old and I ride a bike. In my hometown this confession would be akin to coming out of the closet, sexually speaking. However, a couple of years ago I moved 1,200 miles west. West!

My family and I now live in the Denver Metro area where a lot of 36 year-olds ride a bike and often. I ride often myself. In fact, this past fall I sold my car and we became a one car family. Travesty to many in Eastern Kentucky where I grew up, commonplace in a large urban area where there are lots of alternatives to being a car-for-every-person family.

I began riding a bike when I was seven or eight years old. I can’t remember the exact age; I just know it was prior to beginning third grade. When I was in third grade we moved from rural Eastern Kentucky to Suburbia, Ohio. I could ride a bike by then and while we lived in platted subdivisions with broad, calm streets I rode like a kid possessed. My friends and I pedaled all over the undeveloped and overgrown land east of our particular development. Riding a bike at that age was as natural to me as walking or eating or breathing. The bike was an extension of my body.

As a preteen boy I used the bike for transportation to and from my friends’ houses. We rode together, raced, and engaged in heinous dogfights, we crashed, jumped and skidded through worlds of imagination and reality day after summer day.

After school when the weather was good I’d come home, drop my school things and head for the open road with the same fervor of a Hell’s Angel desperately rebelling against the establishment.

When I was in the fourth grade my family moved out of suburbia to a more rural clime. In a way it was nice. In a way it was hell. There were few other kids my age in the area and it was a long way from our house on a cul-de-sac in the middle of farmland to the nearest community of any size. I made the most of my isolation and I rode my bike relentlessly, again, delving into my imagination and to the depths of what was transportationally possible for a kid my age.

I rode at an early age for entertainment. I rode to get where I wanted to go. I rode because I couldn’t think of anything better to do. I rode because summers were cooler with the wind in my face than baking under the stagnant sun. I rode to my first jobs slinging hay for local farmers.

When I was in high school I lived in Kentucky again. I had my first ten-speed, and I used it to get to town and other places I wanted to go. I wasn’t old enough to drive at first, so the bike was purely functional. I didn’t explore or go on rides for the sake of riding.

Then I reached that magical age where the only thing with wheels that matters is the car. I got my driver’s license and I forgot about the bike for a couple of years. I allowed myself to be brainwashed into believing that the car made more sense than any other form of transportation available to Americans. That programming stuck for a few years.

However, when I went to college in another state I was sort of forced into relying on the bike again. I took some graduation money and bought a Huffy “mountain bike” to take with me. It was 1992 and the bike I bought was roughly 400 pounds and made of steel.

The engine in my car had died so that bike was my only transportation option the first semester. I found that it worked out quite well getting me around campus and the area of town I frequented. I attended school in Nashville, Tennessee and the bike allowed me to explore the city on a more intimate level than I had ever experienced in an urban area.

Looking back I also have discovered that I would ride the bike for proprioceptive stimulation. I speculate that I am afflicted with Sensory Processing Disorder. I have never been officially diagnosed, but I exhibit many of the symptoms, including seeking sensory and proprioceptive stimulation. While on campus in Nashville I would often go out to an empty parking lot near the baseball field and ride for an hour or so in loops of varying sizes, around and around and around. I would zig-zag, I would hop curbs, I would ride in tight circles and drop down the tiered levels of the lot and then pedal hard back to the top level and then down again. To me it seemed normal, but throughout my life as I have followed my quirky routines I have been strangely alone in my pursuits.

I dropped out of college in 1993 and moved back to Kentucky and rode a bumpy career path for a few years, but I didn’t get back on that Huffy. After struggling with future plans I eventually decided I wanted to go to a photography school, this time in Dayton, Ohio. I knew I’d need a bike again living in another big city, so I bought my first real mountain bike. It was a Cannondale and it was light and fast. I loved (and still love) that bike.

I found myself in Dayton in the winter. I rode to work, to school and to explore and kill time. I was again a commuter and a recreational cyclist. I depended on the bike because my car was undependable. It allowed me to avoid the stress of driving a clunker that threatened to leave me stranded more often than not. It was comforting to have the bike and have it fulfill my needs.

Back in Kentucky after dropping out of school once again I found myself with a car that had finally died. The bike was it. I relied on it to get me everywhere for a few years until I married.

Then I was back in school with my new wife and we both rode around campus, though rarely for fun or to explore the college town we found ourselves living in. I finally had a car I could rely on, so I only rode the bike when it would be hard to find a parking space.

A few years passed and rode seldom. We moved back to the small town I called home and I had few opportunities to ride and little ambition. My few excursions on my mountain bike were most often for long rides on the road, and as time passed I realized I needed a road bike instead.

For my birthday in 2007 my parents gave me a chunk of money. I took it and bought my second really nice bike, a Giant OCR2. I worked over 50 miles from home and was still in school. It wasn’t feasible for me to commute by bike so the sole purpose of the Giant was for entertainment. I rode because I wanted to ride. I rode because I needed an escape form the growing stress of adult life. I rode because subconsciously I was seeking the proprioceptive and sensory stimulation I had been craving for year and denying myself in ignorance.

I rode around Lexington, Kentucky on my lunch breaks. I was a GIS intern for an engineering firm and I took the opportunities to ride and explore around Lexington. Never had I rode extensively around a town that I did not live in. And I reveled in the experience. I rode downtown, through the horse farms and the industrial areas of the city.

Then I got a job. A real job…something I could turn into a career. We moved 1200 miles west so I could work in Golden, Colorado. We lived in Denver for awhile and I rode like a fiend everywhere I could. I commute the 15 miles and 800 feet in elevation gain to Golden. I rode mountain passes just because I could. We took the kids to the park in a bike trailer. We explored the city as a family on our bikes. I rode my bike to the grocery store, to church and anywhere I could conceive to go. I rode in my first organized event, one of the most challenging rides in Colorado, the Triple Bypass Tour.

The bike was both practical, fun and therapy as I had finally discovered my unique sensory quirks.

Now I ride primarily as a commuter, but I try to make my commute fun. I dream of big rides. I scheme of fulfilling my long term cycling goal: a cross country ride.

My bike rests against the wall of my cubicle at work as I write this between permits. I will ride it home tonight and prop it against the living room wall. Tomorrow I will happily put the fun between my legs again for another ride to and from work. Hopefully soon I will make an attempt to ride from my house in the plains at 5,600’ to the summit of Mount Evans over 50 miles away and over 14,000’ in elevation. Then I’ll turn my wheel toward the pull of gravity and coast home, completing a century ride for the second time in my life.

In a few years Lord willing I will set out on a long ride. My dream is to ride east from Colorado along Highway 50 to Kentucky, then ride the Dixie Highway north to its intersection with the Lincoln Highway which will carry me back home to Colorado. I may do it alone, or I may do it with my loving and secretly adventurous wife.

I ride because the bike frees me from the frames of convention. It gives me perspective on life. It makes me see things at a slower pace than I would otherwise. The bike tests my body. It stimulates a need in me. It soothes the rugged places in my soul that cannot be satisfied with a gas pedal and air conditioning. A bike is a companion to me and a challenge, to see how far I can propel myself in space and still return to the lands I haunt.

I ride because to not ride is to not live. My heart pumps in time with my pedal strokes and my lungs keep cadence as my legs drive me onward toward the horizon.

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