Right on, ride on

Ceci n'est pas une vélo

Green, Yellow, Red

Posted by @teeheehee on September 25th, 2009

ZAPHOD BEEBLEBROX: Er, man, like what’s your name?
MAN: I don’t know. Why, do you think I ought to have one? It seems odd to give a bundle of vague sensory perceptions a name.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Well, this particular bundle of sensory perceptions made some observations this morning:

  1. There are now wind turbines on top of a building on Western Ave next to Soldiers Field Road (parking garage, hotel?) – here. Anyone know more about these?
  2. There is a section of path along Soldiers Field Road that I call the “canopy of trees.” This stretch of the path is my favorite and it’s starting to display autumnal colors. I am preparing myself for a beautiful couple of weeks of crisper morning rides.

Half green and red apple.

Half green and red apple.

As the cold sets in the months-long progression of deciduous life transforms from the green to yellow to red, culminating into the particularly pretty “fall foliage” that is a New England spectacle. I find it amusing that the cycle is repeated in urban transportation: the green to yellow to red of traffic lights, reduced from the months required in nature to the seconds or minutes that our high-speed lifestyles demand. When Autumn hits and the foliage turns red it is as if they implore observers to halt and admire the scenery, and why should it be any different on the streets at a red light? Especially on a bicycle.

This particular bundle of sensory perceptions would like to make some other observations today.

As cyclists we can speed amongst the schools of cars downtown, cruise casually in company of folks out for a light promenade along the waterfront, march stately in cadence with a team of eager co-conspirators challenging the hills, and even stop to smell the roses on the merest of whims.

I think that changing pace brings a more pronounced change in perception for someone riding a bike than any other mode of transportation. Adaptability: a strong argument for using a bike as a mode of transport.

What about other methods? With motor vehicles there is little physical activity required to manipulate a large mass in motion: minor movements of foot and hand become impressive shifts in speed and direction. What I’ve noticed is that in a car there is a comfort zone that is natural to achieve, which involves the pitch of the hum of the motor, the feel of the pressure of foot against pedal, the velocity of static objects being passed, and the joy that unbroken threading through traffic can bring. Try to slow down and that comfort is broken, plus threading through traffic is hardly flawless, hence all the drama and pent-up rage. Driving a car can be like winding a spring to maximum coiled potential; unless, as a driver, one conditions oneself to accept the realities and find comfort with more than one pitch/pressure/speed point. In general the comfort zone that a driver adopts, the ideal speed, in most cases does not allow for much pause and reflection. The zone is precisely termed in a way easily attributed to a motorized vehicle: driven.

Walkers, joggers, and runners also have a comfort zone. Pace, vibration, and heart-rate are the pitch/pressure/speed equivalents. One becomes comfortable with a particular pace of movement, the feel of shock and vibration as foot hits ground and all of the joints detect the impact rippling its way through the body, and the beating of the human heart strictly regulates the duration and level of activity. Most people who are moderately athletic find it a struggle to go more than ten miles without having learned mental tricks to stave off boredom (beyond the physical endurance required.) It’s a lot more introspection, one has to listen to and observe their own body acutely to prevent damage from the demands being placed on it. To change pace is to alter everything going on inside the body.

For people who ride on roller blades, I apologize, but I have to group you with walkers/joggers/runners. It is a bit unfair perhaps, so I am willing to listen to your arguments if you care to share them with me.

Perceiving the world. To enjoy it one must be comfortable in order to be most apt, most ready to absorb what is happening around them. As I used to observe things in a car while driving I would see many things, but could not stop on every whim to actually touch/smell/hear/taste anything that I wanted to. I was trapped and forced to observe with only my eyes and, sometimes, ears and nose.

As a jogger I would travel short distances and have a greater wealth of information to deal with. The strongest intimacy with the world around is experienced at these speeds as one’s mind delves into any avenue of boredom-fighting distraction, so long as the body doesn’t raise too many complaints.

Finally, as a cyclist I play with travelling considerable distances and seeing lots of things and combining that with the deep inspection of senses available only to the slower, more exposed forms of transportation. I can choose how I observe the world. Of course, there are rhythms and cadences and heartbeats that make a comfortable zone, but gears can be used to regulate speed across an entire spectrum while advantaging the rider with a variety of ways to collect information with the senses.

So it is that as green becomes yellow and red my vague sensory perceptions are feeding my mind, and I observe the world around me while perched on a saddle, travelling at the rate of my comfort. How I love Autumn.

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