I think that I am growing to understand the impact and importance of putting much more of my life and eenrgies around bicycling. This weekend I’ve had two instances where I’ve been shifted a few gears in respect to that perspective of cycling. It’s probably going to be a good thing in the end, for now, I’m settling into a rhythm of sorts.
The first story isn’t really my own. It is a story of the impact that modernization and the shifting economic tides have taken on cycling in China. If you aren’t familiar with the trend, the growing affluence and economic prospectics within China has quickly taken the bicycle out of the primary sphere of things. I think that the statement goes something like, to a newly married couple they need only a home, a radio, family, and a bicycle (that’s not the entire thing, but its close). Now, the culture has moved such that the automobile is now the symbol of moving ahead in society and therefore the infrastructures to support that are on those things that economies adn cultural shifts happen.
I came across a website that is documenting this trend in one area within China. What’s interesting here is that despite the move away of cycling, the fact that it is a transportation center-in-the-making, and that cycling is still in the recent memory of many of the residents, there’s some bowing towards cycling, even though its more or less being pushed to the sides of the road. Interesting stuff. I’d definitly recommend taking a look at CoLab Radio’s Bike Lanes of Kunming.
After sitting on that for a few days, I started thinking a bit about how backwards I am going with trying to bike more places. I mean, if bicycling is considered something that doesn’t promote forward progress to a growing economic region (China), what kind of sense does it make for me to persue cycling more in Charlotte if its clearly not forward thinking (being facecious, I know better). But, it was something that I thought long and hard about. And must admit that I was probably also a bit jaded from the reading of Operation AJAX that I recently downloaded to my iPad (get it, its very well done for a history book done comic-style).
The second gear (story) has to do more about what you stumble into when you do let a culture of cycling kind of take effect. After attending a friend’s birthday party Saturday night, one of the people from the party and I decided to get together to ride on Sunday morning. Things got started a bit early as she needed to push the time earlier. We connected at a (kinda) halfway point – I rode about 9.25 miles and she about 5 miles. We then continued on a loop and she made it home tired but pleased about the ride. I continued, only to have my derauler break less than a mile from where she and I parted. Bummer.
I pulled off to the side of the road (actually, someone’s lawn) and tried to see what happened. It just flat broke and bent all up. That was quite not good because I was essentially at the halfway point of my ride (about 18miles into it). The bike was not rideable. I couldn’t even get it to the point of making it a single speed. However, a gentleman and his wafe saw me and offered me a ride back to my part of town. It was totally out of their way, and very much opposite from their direction of home. Yet, they offered. And showed me the value of bicycling that goes beyond simple pedals.
We talked about cycling and faith. His wife showed me a picture of one of his bikes in great condition (a very pretty Trek Maldone 5.2) and another that was smashed. He had been hit by a driver and the bike was literally unrecongnizable. We talked about their trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the rides he did there. I was very much encouraged towards how his wife was there to help him do the ride, she supported him greatly. Then I learned of his riding across the country. That was amazing. And then we talked about my faith and how I got to Charlotte, why I ride, etc. I was given some good wisdom to take with me the rest of the day. Wisdom that was of a better exercise than the 15 or so miles that I had left to ride.
And so I end up with this lesson. Bicycling isn’t just about exercise. Its not about being defiant of cars. And its not about being cheap and green. Its about a method of wise standing with the culture around you. And if you bike well, then you are rewarded with the kinds of experiences that can be life enriching. There are dangers, and there are definitely challenges in respect to how your culture moves forward themselves.
Its when you live between the wheels that you see this. You get a chance to pace youself a bit better for the life that’ ahead just as much as you are able to roll. For me, I’m set to figure out that there’s another gear to this life that I’ve got to handle better. And I can’t do it with an old frame. That will break on you at the worst time. You’ve got to take your best frame, your strongest legs, and a realization of whom you are, and then take those steps forward. It might not be the future that you want, but, it will be the kind of future that’s best for all – at least, that’s what it feels like in this gear.