Road Rash and Broken Bones

For some months now I have been thinking about starting a bicycle blog. I was riding like a fiend in January and (he boasted) even rode my first century of the year before the month’s end. For some reason, a huge number of dogs harassed me that month. It suddenly occurred to me to write a public service blog. I would title it “Oklahoma Dog Blog,” and it would describe the meanest, orneriest, most dangerous mutts in the state and the country roads where they are wont to run loose. But I never could get motivated to start it. I needed a topic that was less ephemeral and more cerebral.

While riding on a rainy day three weeks ago I was broadsided by a GMC Yukon. I was going straight, and the motorist turned left right into me. My left leg was bruised from hip to ankle and the ankle bone shattered to bits. After impact I went flying into the air. Two ribs on my right side broke when I landed, and my Bell helmet cracked in three places. The emergency room doctor told me, “Y’know, that helmet saved your life.”

It’s not the accident that gave me my idea for this new blog, but its aftermath. When I hobbled into work with my leg in a cast a few days later, I had to tell my story countless times to countless co-workers, who responded similarly. “You’d never see me riding on such busy roads,” one replied. “I bet you can’t wait until they finish the bike path around the city,” said another.

Unwilling to trot out all the arguments against bike paths, I replied simply,  “Bike paths are for children.” I often chuckle to myself when I see people riding high-dollar time-trial bikes on the bike paths around Lake Hefner. As I watch these Lance Wannabes, I always think, “If you want to go fast, why not ride on the road like a grown-up!”

My co-workers’ responses were well intended. What they do not understand is that bicycling is much more than exercise. If all I wanted was exercise, I could buy a stationary bicycle. But a bicycle ride is both a physical adventure and a journey of the mind. To feel the machine move through space solely by muscle power; to see my breath on cold days, feel my sweat on hot ones;  to dance on the pedals on the way uphill; to feather the brakes on the way down, maintaining a fine balance between speed and control; to feel on my face the sun, the wind, the rain, the snow; to ride a flat road at a steady cadence that works better than any meditative “Om”; to think about life and philosophize. Far more than a form of exercise, bicycling is a philosophy and a way of life. Road rash and broken bones are merely part of the lifestyle, a small price to pay for the feelings of freedom that come with riding a bike.

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