Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Ups and downs (and not all of them on a bike)

You know, some weeks are crazy. Like at one and the same time the most amazing and exciting and the most awful and depressing.

Just had one. On the one hand, we've had to come to terms with the fact that our first, much-loved, Makepiece shop just isn't working in the premises it moved to at the end of last year and we have to close it down, with everything that entails.

On the other, I was told that I've won a trip to do the Tour of Flanders sportive and the perfect bike for it: a BMC Granfondo, on which to do it. It's a massive challenge which will be an an amazing experience.

I can't really describe the inside of my head. Like the constant pulsing of a lighthouse beam, slowly rotating between a million lumens of excitement and a rather deep, dark sadness. Then back again. Round and round. Happy anticipation keeping me going through the worry and the stress.

This contrast is rarely so stark but it's a heightened example of what cycling does for me. When things are good, it makes them better. When things are difficult and life is a challenge, it helps me rise to it.

I get onto my bike and it takes me over the hills, one pedal stroke after another. Almost literally it takes me outside of myself. I get to look at new things and peep beyond the valley's rim. And when the rain is coming down sideways and filling my shoes, I look down at my still pedalling legs and it makes me giggle at the nonsense of the endeavour. Fighting my way up the gradients, sweeping down the hills. Cycling makes everything in me work together - head, heart, lungs and legs.

It's particularly noticeable on my mountain bike, where the trail takes over my mind. Everything is concentrated on picking the line, keeping poised, holding, pushing, pumping the bike maintaining momentum over rocks and drops, taking the turns, looking looking looking forward.

The trail winds ahead of me and that's the challenge I have to accept. Get it wrong and it may hurt. Or worse. It teases my brain like a puzzle of roots and rocks. I look at the jumble in front of me and something inside, something unconscious and brave takes over and orders it, and orders me forward. Push my wheel over here, roll down the sliver of smoothness I can just about discern. Hit that ledge and keep moving, lift over that step without pause and onwards. Look round the bend, turn my head and drag my body into that look and the bike will go. There are no worries here, no niggles, no concerns. Everything extraneous to keeping this bike on this line is excluded. And as the spell works, it unlocks elation. The exhilaration of speeding downwards combined with enormous satisfaction of a job well done.

And even back in the real world, that satisfaction lingers. So even in this crazy week, when things are really pretty grim, there's a bike, a reason to get on it and the prospect of long roads, cobbled climbs (a different technical challenge) and a view quite outside the valley. What more does a girl need to get through?

On the Koppenberg in 2012

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