Some people think it’s great that I started riding a road bike at the tender age of 52. Probably a lot more are wondering why. It’s a reasonable question. It’s not easy to ride in the rolling hills of Tuscany. If I really, really get into it it could become expensive. It’s time consuming. It’s not convenient.
I could give you reasons that you’d believe but that would be lies. For instance, I could tell you that I do it because it’s healthy and will keep me younger and stronger longer than sitting around doing nothing. Those facts are true, but that’s not the reason I started. I could tell you that I started so that I could spend more time with my husband (the Cyclist) and have a better understanding of this sport that he is so passionate about. This would be only half true. I understand passion and don’t really need to participate to understand. We spend a little more time together riding, but not every ride so the total gain isn’t that big. I could tell you that I enjoy the thrill of competition and pushing my body to it’s limits. Baldfaced lie. I may be the only person on the road who rides just for fun…and the coffee and pastry. Personal bests, Queen of the hill, these things don’t matter to me. In fact, I barely keep track of how much I ride. My only goal is to arrive.
The absolute, honest to gosh truth is that for me riding represents freedom.
Imagine you didn’t have a car. Don’t panic! I said imagine. Your car is safely parked wherever you left it, just waiting for you climb in and go anywhere your little heart desires. But what if you didn’t have it? Your life would change significantly, even in a place where buses and trains were abundant.
Everything you do would be determined by how far you can walk. How much you can carry. How long it takes to walk there. If you take a bus, the schedule and the driver’s ability to actually maintain the schedule determine just how much you can do in a day. Your view of your surroundings is always seen through a cloud of dirty windows or your own sweaty brow and obscured by tall buildings.
Now imagine getting on a bike and riding out of town, something you’ve only been able to do on a train or bus, and those times are few and far between. Do you know what’s out there?
Every vista is like a National Geographic spread. Tiny roads through little villages. Quaint churches clinging to the sides of mountains. Water coming out of fountains dating from last week or last century, or even older. The heart of wine country, where vines strectch out in every direction and olive trees dot the mountainsides all the way to the horizon. Sheep with actual bells around their necks. And you truly see all this because you’re not zooming along at 70 km/hr on your way to stop #3 of 5 for the day.
It’s not just the spectacular views though. It’s also the joy of feeling, just for a little bit, like flying. The absolute joy of flying along the road (at the astonishing rate of 15 km/hr) with the wind in your face is nothing short of spectacular. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I was a dog in the back of a pick up or a greyhound. You know, one of those dogs that runs just for the sheer joy of running. But it's more than this too.
The country is filled with aromas. Not just the ones we usually associate with country living. You don't just see the lavender along the road, you smell it. The smell of fresh cut grass or hay, the humidity of the river as it winds next to the road, the heavy aroma of roses along the walls, the scent of fresh cut wood (and the accompanying smell of the chain saw which always makes me think of a boat on a lake), the smoke from someones burning brush pile, the sweet/sour smell of coffee and pastry wafting out the door of a cafe bar, the smell of grilling meat just as your body decides it's not just hungry, it's hungry.
A ride in the country is experienced with all my senses. I'm already amazed and inspired by the place I live in, but when I ride I feel alive to the very tips of my fingers and toes and to the deepest part of my soul. All I have to do is get on the bike and pedal. This is why I ride.