What is it like to breathe in fresh, nine a.m. air? What is it like to have fingers so frigid you can almost snap them off like icicles from a roof? What is it like to step into a warm bar in the middle of the week and be surrounded by strangers who are now your friends?
This is what it’s like. It’s like being part of something. It’s like pulling your bike from your basement every morning and accidentally slamming it into the door each and every time. It’s like wiping the seat off of three inches of snow at the end of your shift at the café and getting on it, wobble-riding it through the grey slop streets of Buffalo. This is what it’s like to be part of the winter cycling commuting contest.
It’s a madman’s passion. It’s a fool’s quest. It’s wheels turning over and over in the snow on cold December streets. It is riding in the middle of the road and trying to avoid black ice and white ice and white snow and black snow and a pothole, a dip, a curve, a rock. It is the feeling of that same Nissan Altima coming up behind you slowly, so irritatingly slowly and then beeping at you to get over and you want to say, “I’m riding my bike in this beautiful muck you asshole. Turn up your heat, your book on tape, your defrosters, and relax.” but instead you smile and you nod and scoot over and think how much carbon you are saving and how this is really quite fun. Really? Yes, in some small way, this is really quite fun.
It is being at Essex on a Wednesday night and your friends have just made you laugh so hard that your face contorts and you know at that moment you are the least attractive person in the world, but there isn’t anyone in this room who’s going to hold that against you. The beer tastes too good and fills you up and makes your heart warm and your eyes soft and the laughter of all these cyclists lofts up like the old tobacco smoke your grandfather used to inhale and then exhale, up, up, up into the ceiling.
I am part of this contest and I am not the best one on my team. I am not the best one in any way at this, but I am keeping my legs moving. I am waking up each morning and I am getting out my bike and I am letting my wheels turn over, over, over, always forward.