The truth beneath standard appearances is that I didn’t really get hooked on cycling primarily for the exercise benefits, to someday compete, or to socialize with active types, but for an oblique, nearly incomprehensible reason, that is, I cycled because it worked as a vehicle of self-transcendence, a practice that could induce a yoking of Woman or Man to the Universe. It didn’t consciously start out that way, I mean, I didn’t go into it consciously seeking to be spiritually reconfigured or emotionally transformed or essentially reengineered or anything like that. What guided me was a blind urge, a deep-seated intuition, a goad that repeated in whisper never stop cycling. It was a symbol, a metaphor, an organizing motif. It was a summons, a calling, an obsession. A discovery of the euphoric mind. I listened and I trusted. I risked and I rode on. And it’s taken awhile to do the sort of probing into the nature of my experiences to grasp the meaning of the induced changes as transformative initiations, something, anything that would explain the rapturous, ravenous grip cycling would come to have upon my sweat-soaked soul!
Originally, cycling presented itself in my mid-twenties as a simple means of channeling a waning sense of adventure, triggered by watching Sean Penn’s Into the Wild (2007) and acquainting with the now-famous story of Chris McCandless. Through its alternative transportation, I started going about my daily business getting across the suburbs and into the city for work, school, and social events by bike, as a preventative means of keeping drabness from setting in, that bleak alienation young spirits configure to as they enter the rat race in early adulthood.
And then, as I was casually, rather enjoyably, meandering around town by bike, someone abruptly and unexpectedly inspired me, or just that someone put a fire under something that was already in motion, intersecting something ignorantly waiting for its ignition, and then it seemed everything was ablaze. I called him a guru or a prophet but in actuality he appeared in the humble form of a bike mechanic and he serviced the work it would take for soul to begin its engagement with the body and facilitated what was barely emerging, what would come to be known as contemplative cycling; I wanted to respond to this calling, transform through this fire, I wanted to win his heart, so I cycled harder, farther, with more passion, verve, integrity, and devotion (or, loyal love). Perfect revolutions became my mantra. All I did was ride.
Lo and behold, auspiciously proximal, practically in my backyard, an incredibly powerful and conducive landscape awaited my stirring impetus to explore and to expand my range. Though I lived in a suburban corridor outside of Denver, I lived on the fringe of its development, about six miles from the winding transitional zone where the prairie that extends outward across the American Midwest meets that sharp upturn of land that makes up the outermost base of the Rocky Mountains.
In those early days, I would cycle to this transitional zone and ponder at the foot of the Front Range at these impressive red and beige and maroon slabs of sandstone-flanked continental upheaval and would wonder if I could traverse into their circuitous interior.
So it was my fate that my circumscribed little existence just happened to back up to this wild, wayfaring, wondrous open space in which a fledgling cyclist must cycle steady, relentless grades and grueling climbs, rides that lift cyclists higher and higher through only the labor of their own exertion and the clarity of their commitment, rides that slowly but surely achieve vantage points, access vistas, and gain wide-angled perspective, rides that trace out and get involved with the arduousness involved in ascension.
One day a countercultural commuter cyclist, the next, tuned in, turned on, poof, vanish, self-obliterated, enfolded into an accordion-like compression of a faulted fold of massive earth, a gape that swallows whole. For these sandstone slabs were, unknown to the unawakened eye, flaky, rocky, earthen cathedral gates opening up a natural sanctuary within which a vigilant prayer demanding body, mind, and soul acquiesce to the vigorous effort of persistent cycling that offered no quarter. At the open yawn of the canyon’s great mouth, a mystery addressed me. Timorous and timid, up against this impossible terrain, it called on me, or tempted me, to approximate what was most wild, to abandon reason, tried-and-true values, and my ace in the hole, for the passionate, free-spirited life of the open road. It asked I abandon myself for a transfigured self. It asked everything of me.
This ascetic-athletic act of cycling harmonized canyon, interminable road, bike, and strengthening vitality, as felt through a quickening heartbeat and the conversion of tissue to lean muscle; it was a bliss-wrenched opening to a secret interior, an intermingling nexus of earth, asphalt, aluminum, rubber, carbon fiber, the body, the subtle body, and its dormant energies: a roadside-forged discovery of untouched depth and a passionate longing to be claimed.
Soon enough, under the influence of irresistibly accumulating mileage, miles stacked upon miles, the medium, quietly forging incremental degrees of wakefulness, would make its utility and value and promise known as an awakening that was penetrating every enlivened cell to remake and to seize whole.