Just ride

By Henri Boulanger, Guest blogger | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 10.06pm

When many people think of a bicycle, they think of a tool. They think of it as just another mode of transportation through this madcap world.

But those who have truly experienced the bike, those who have actually taken a mental step back and thought, 'Wait a second, this is more than two wheels and a chain.' They are the ones who know the bicycle is a creature that has taken more than 200 years to be discovered, refined, improved upon, and tamed by man.

The whir of the oiled metal is pleasing to the ears. The click of the derailleurs going from one ring to the next is like the sound of a victory won. Yes, many people do not realize or respect their bikes for what they really are.

The controversies stirred by the bike, the inventions spawned from the parts of the bike, the inspiration that the bike has had on countless of men and women, the sports conceived from the bike, the heroes that emerged from these sports and the work they do in the world, all of these matters can and will often times be overlooked by the average Joe. There is a moment that sometimes occurs on a ride where everything falls away and you just feel a sense of happiness.

For me, it comes when I put the hammer down then coast and just listen. At night, the only sound is the subtle click of the gears. I'm not as into the lore and the history of the bike as my dad, even though I like hearing about it. Those souls like my dad who are passionate, truly passionate about the bicycle are a type of people that the world could use more of.

Many men and women are duped into thinking that 'the lighter, the faster, the better.' Everybody at one point gets caught up in the mayhem of the bicycling industry and its advice, good or bad, its merchandise, its banter, its, and at times, its racerboy attitude. The flurry of new bikes, components, ride food, clothing, and helmets can be misleading and confusing.

Sometimes, the way to enjoy a ride is to forget about the brand, forget about the weight, make sure the bike works, and just ride. Go prepared, of course, but don’t put too much thought into it.

You want to save the planet? Okay, then use your bike whenever possible. If your job demands a long car ride, then so be it. Vacations also don’t have to be a car ride to a monument or a campsite or an aquarium. They can be a simple bike trip with plenty of stops and plenty of food. Going for a hammer ride in Lycra at 40 miles an hour can feel like the real deal or what the pros feel, but think about:  are you having fun? True fun?

So, just step back and think to yourself: am I all hat and no cattle? Is the Lycra and the latest and greatest totally selling to me? Have I gone so deep that I’m not even enjoying myself? If you like the Lycra, the hammer rides, the new stuff, that’s fun. There’s no harm in that. If you have fun with it, go for it. But the bottom line is, if you aren’t enjoying yourself, then you aren’t experiencing the bike for what it truly is. Which is almost like dissing the ride, man. Not cool.

So just ride.

Henri Boulanger is a musician, student, inventor, writer, brother and son who calls Mountain View, California home. The 13-year-old bicyclist felt inclined to write this blog at midnight after enjoying a night ride with friends recently, including his father Gary. Let him know what you think.

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