Riding into Light: Riding into Darkness
My bicycle is my most reliable vehicle, a fact which proved true yet again today.
We are a one-car family. When the family car needs service, I put my bike in the car and drive the car (if drivable) to the automotive repair shop. From the auto repair place I bike the eighteen miles to work. Today the car needed service, so last night I put my bike in the car and got my biking clothes ready.
I had looked at weather forecast which predicted 28 degrees Fahrenheit in the pre-dawn hours I would be biking, but it also predicted that the temperature would rise about 10 degrees during my ride. So I tried to choose my kit so that I was neither overdressed nor under-dressed. I did pretty well with insulated bib tights over a base layer and two pairs of socks, a mid-weight long sleeve jersey, nylon jacket, head sock, gloves and liners.
Next time I will also use shoe covers. My bike shoes have a lot of mesh for ventilation - not the greatest thing when the temperature dips below freezing.
In addition to clothes I made sure I had decent safety lights to wear. I got together three flashing red lights for the back and two flashing white lights for the front. I got up in the morning at about ten minutes before five and was on road by five-thirtyish, arriving at the mechanic's shop at about six o'clock. I parked the car, filled out the key envelope and dropped it with my car key through the mail slot. Then I put on my biking shoes, glasses and helmet and made ready to go.
The temperature was already in the low thirties, so I did not find the temperature uncomfortable at all. Our mechanic's shop is in a busy section of Natick and the traffic was commensurate with the busy-ness, but I am comfortable in multi-lane traffic. On the drive there I had noticed that a key bridge on my usual route was under repair, so in my head I devised an alternate route past Lake Cochituate, which reflected the first light of dawn as I rode past.
Because of the difficult light of dawn, I needed to be very mindful and present, concentrating as much as possible on the road immediately in front of me, because obstacles - pot holes, manhole covers, drains and the like - were hard to see. The level of concentration combined with the fast rhythm of my pace (I wanted to stay warm and I wanted to get to work fast) to drive all extraneous thoughts away, such that I felt almost in a meditative state. It was very peaceful as I rode through Natick, Wayland, Wellesley, Needham and Dedham.
As I rode into Westwood, the sun broke over the horizon and lit the tops of the autumn trees afire. They were so beautiful I had to stop and take the picture above.
I wrote this poem about cycling:
Wheels want to stay vertical because they spin
Marvelous slender fragile stability
So much like my psyche
Wondering what state I'm in
The bicycle an athletic lover whispers
"faster, faster, mister"
Me in my tunnel of vision
Too early for drivers' derision
Keep my tires safe from glass
From careless cars protect my ass
Here and there a vehicle of sports utility
Gets a little too friendly
On the shoulder crowding me
I swallow the road rage
Better act my age
Through the roundabout
Ain't no doubt about
Glad to be alive
Left so by those who drive
Feeling good sprinting fast
Made both those lights at last
Hammering up that long hill
Exercising force of will
(The bike says go faster please
The body says don't make me wheeze)
Occasional deathwish at a red light
Common sense says you'll lose that fight
Down the other side
The wind of descent as I glide
Pass those three famous streets
Faith, Hope and Charity
What kind of message do they send?
Each of these streets is a dead end
What's the best part for me?
Riding on that cloverleaf
Across the interstate -
A good place to meet one's fate
Yet once more I survive
Mildly grateful to be alive
Another hill and down again
Around the corner my commute ends