Joy as an Act of Resistance

This piece appeared originally at The Cycling Independent.

Sometimes the simple act of riding a bike for fun will hold back an ocean of hurt, of conflict, of responsibility, of baggage, of politics both interpersonal and international. Just pedaling, just rolling, just daring to smile inwardly and let the Earth rotate under your wheels, letting yourself be the equal and opposite reaction life demands you to be.

Adulthood is a scam. After nearly 50 years here on the Earth, I can only gather that I am not in on the joke. Any transaction that robs you of childhood’s collected experiential treasure and replaces it with responsibility is a bad deal.

Bike riding is the escape clause.

I should tell you, right now, the title of this screed is not mine. It belongs to these guys, but the message is so powerful I couldn’t resist borrowing it.

I grew up a contrarian. I did drugs and learned to love punk rock. I defined myself in opposition to people and ideas. As it turns out this is not an effective way to live. The energy it takes to be angry all the time isn’t sustainable, and while it’s easy to say what you aren’t, that isn’t a real identity to organize your days around. Instead, you have to weigh what you’re for, what you’re about.

Riding bikes was a good vehicle out of my youthful nihilism. It burred off some of my cynical edges and showed me ways to push back against things I was angry about, like traffic, environmental issues, and more broadly, the man.

Writing is a similar pursuit. Sure, there is the naked agenda of cycling, of evangelizing the sport, of glorifying the experience, but as another means of expression is gives me an avenue to rage against the machine/dying of the light. Just working with words, every day, stacking and rearranging them, stretching and bending them, is like a flowy ride down a sublime section of single-track.

For those of us who grew up in the 20th century, the year 2020 always felt like the province of science fiction, and yet here we are. The challenges of living in this improbable future array themselves before us. Pandemics and politics. Climate and catastrophe. We are all affected on some level.

But if you’re reading these words it’s beyond likely that you have the means to resist, to throw your leg over a top tube and ride away from it all, escaping the problems and solving them simultaneously. And when you pedal away, you don’t need to look over your shoulder. I’ll be there with you, on the wheel, chasing the joy we both know is out there.