When you go cycling, things become simple; clear. You think about things you would not be able to anywhere else.
There’s a scene in Legally Blonde, where Elle Woods is about to give up being a lawyer. She complains that it’s no use trying to be someone she is not. Emmet, future husband, says something like “What if you are trying to be who you are”.
“Just be yourself”,” Go find yourself”, are some of the messages life and people around us send. That’s a common answer when life forces you to be someone you simply are not; it’s a situation most of us have faced at some time.
And it seems like these days we are confronted with so many ways to be many different people (new ‘essence of lizard’ perfume…be all you can be…). The trouble is–and the joy is also–that you are never really in one place for all that long. Everything’s moving. That’s one thing I love about the bike.
But if nothing stays in the one place, you cant be anyone or be anywhere. Then don’t be. Go with the flow and just become. . .(And If I’m maybe sounding a bit like Carrie Bradshaw–but it seems that she, unlike me, doesn’t mind lizards . . .– it’s only because I really love that show.) who you are.
Sunday 18th, mid-spring, moderately overcast. Good. The less sun, the better; the more sun, the more sunscreen. Temp is set to top out at 29C or so. Few spots of rain though. . . Don’t like what a wet volcanic sand sprayed up from the road does to the drivetrain. But it’s gotta really be raining down. I’m going riding . . . 50km, with around 400m of climbing.
Route, Jiu Tong Mountain. You head out of Taichung city for the satellite town of Taiping. You connect in with route 136, which leads to a legendary (around here!) climb to 67om (and there’s the club that like it too) up the side of an 1100m peak.
It also leads to the Mt. He Huan ultra-climb (known in Taiwan as the “steel backside/ass“[鐵屁股]) coz you need glutes as hard as steel to get you to the top especially on a road bike, and is good preparation for it actually. But today is not the day.
The first thing to do is navigate traffic around the back of Taichung train station. There I am below, drowning in traffic. Well, it’s actually not too bad for today. I can maintain around 25km/h through here.
I’m hard to see. But at least cameraperson has picked me out. It’s often hard to see yourself, immersed in life, focused on the here and now, the road just in front of you. Others may see you. Or not. And there’s a whole commercial world grabbing for your attention; you can get pulled every which way.
On the bike that can be not good for your health. You need to be scanning ahead, looking for the exit point in the turn, looking for the I’m-gonna-do-it-right-now right turn betel-buzzed driver on your left–a crash just waiting to happen–not just where your front wheel is from moment to moment.
Be focused without obsessing over it. Focus on what’s important (it’s not the destination so much as the journey), you have ride the traffic. You get through it . . . for now. You’ll have to come back into it soon enough–there’s no such thing as absolute freedom. For now, at least you are becoming free (er).
The thing with Taiwan’s cities is that there is really no suburbs. One minute you are in the city. The next the blocks end abruptly and you have rice-fields or gardens. No real transitional zone here. And that’s when the cycling begins.
However, the traffic does seem to be transitional. You can slowly free yourself from that immersion and begin to open your mind to the road ahead, from being to becoming. But it takes time.
Once you are clear of scooters and traffic you can really start cycling, get into the rhythm, high cadence, 30+ km/h, freely moving, leaving another life behind for a short time. . .becoming the cyclist you know you are.
Setting a brisk pace on the open road, there’s a quick left to take 3 kms ahead. Going straight will take you to the 136 climb; you have to be selective as to the big challenges. Left is to Jiu Tong mountain. That’s doable today. Sure, it was always the plan. But a Black Swan on the road can put you on a different track. Not necessarily worse, or better. Just different. (It would have to be quite a Black Swan to get me up 136 today!).
Virtually no traffic now, so I can let the GP2 do her thing. Go bicycle. It’s like being at the top of the arc, before gravity begins to pull you back down. The earth has released you temporarily; you’re cycling in the zone. “Oh c’mon. Too many words. You’re just cycling.” I have become who I am. A contented becoming. Simply.
Fast corner. Poor technique. Must remember to jam outside foot down. 1km to the climb. The climb itself averages 6% for 1.5 – 2km with one 20% section. But seeing as cameraperson did not charge the camera battery enough there are no pics.
Does this classify as a black swan? Nah. It’s what happens. It remains to go over the top, descend to the river, climb the ridge towards DaKeng, then spin the way back to a different kind of life. Back into the traffic to disappear once more. Although a little bit changed. And there’s perspective, always more perspective after every ride.
Although, as a well-know bike rider once said (meaning something a bit different though), it’s not about the bike, thank you anyway bicycle. You allow me to become who I am. I am immersed again in life and business, and would not have it any other way. And I am a cyclist and the open road beckons soon, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.