The morning was nearly perfect. The temperature was in the eighties and the humidity was high, but the air was still and the cloud cover sufficient to keep the sun out of my eyes. As I rolled my bike out of the garage, I noted that my tire pressure was a little low, but quickly determined that it was sufficient for one more outing.
Despite my apparent fearlessness as a child, I had long since adopted a more mature policy of simply avoiding anything that might even vaguely resemble a road hazard. I tried to keep my pressure in range and enjoy a smooth ride, but I felt good this morning and maybe I’d have the opportunity to make use of the lower pressure (as well as the slightly more sophisticated shock system which had come with my bike). Today, I would ride without fear and take the obstacles I met head-on. I would be indestructible.
It wasn’t long before I had the opportunity for which I had hoped. I was on a downhill stretch in a new neighborhood and gathering speed at a reasonable clip when I noticed that someone had placed a rather large speed bump inconveniently near the bottom… and that a gremlin had covered the entire bump in river rock. I tapped the brakes, but knew that I wasn’t going to be able to shave off enough speed to “ease over” the obstacle as I normally did. I was going to have to take it head-on, full bore… fearlessly.
Rising off my seat, I shifted my center of gravity forward, tucked my head down… and flew. Right up and over the bump as though it were no more difficult than tying my shoes. It was a moment of sheer freedom.
As I touched down, I glanced behind at my riding partner who had been able to take the bump at a more moderate speed and smiled. I felt myself sit up a bit straighter in my seat, pleased with the knowledge that not only had I taken the obstacle with the finesse of a pro, but that someone had actually seen me do it.
We encountered our next hazard when the path we were following turned from pavement to a mixture of sand and gravel. I could have turned back, but I was feeling fantastic and was up for more. Standing up on my pedals and maintaining my speed, I made full use of my handlebars to guide my bike upright down the trail. No problem here. I had seen these rocks before and I had conquered them.
After a nice loop of a sandy trail, we headed back into town where I encountered my third big obstacle of the day. This one turned out to be a human on a busy road. The driver was going about 35 mph and I knew that I could sprint an easy 20 and be across the road in time without his ever even having to tap the brakes. I took off like a shot, made it across, and had begun to pedal my way down the road when the driver hit his accelerator and paced me while blowing his horn. I have to admit that this unsettled me and, for the next few minutes, I fumed while griping to my riding partner about discourteous drivers.
I admit that my mind was still focused on my prior encounter with the motor vehicle as we pulled up to the crosswalk and I reached for the button and did the unthinkable. After a day of fabulous, fearless riding, I dropped my bike breaking my water bottle cage and skinning my knee, bruising my leg in five distinct places and slitting my thumb. It wasn’t until I managed to release myself from my rather unusual pedal straps and regained control of my gripped my handlebars that I noticed the last of these injuries. I looked down for a moment, watching as blood dripped down my grip and onto my leg.
I think I’ll leave the blood on my handlebars for a while – a reminder that the biggest threat to my safety on the road isn’t an obstacle in front of my bike, but the ones that exist within my own mind. Next time, I’ll ride safer: not just fearless, but focused.