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New Possibilities

What is possible? Do we ever really know what we are capable of? Even if we try something and fail, that only tells us that our approach was wrong. Further attempts may yield success. One of the best things about life is getting to find out that something we once thought was impossible is not.

Yesterday in Colorado we were faced with one of our characteristically strong wind events. Every spring (and to a lesser extent, summer, fall and winter) we get strong winds blowing down from the mountains into the “bowl” that is the Denver metro area. These winds often range in the 30-50 mph sustained, 80-100 mph peak, gusts. They almost always blow in from the south, southwest.

One of the biggest challenges of my bike commute is this wind. My commute is due south, uphill, and brutally difficult at the end of a trying day. It is painful with even the lightest 15 mph wind. I was faced with the choice of riding home into a 30 mph headwind, easily stronger than anything I’ve faced before. I was not even sure that I could handle the crosswind on some of the exposed sections of my ride, I had visions of blowing over in a strong gust. My commuter bag is anything but aerodynamic.

Somehow I found myself standing over my bike outside my office, and with the snap of clipping in to both pedals I was committed. I had no aspirations of speed, with each section riding into the wind I just fell into the drops and ground it out as best I could. I must have looked ridiculous to the cars going by, teeth bared in effort, the silent scream of exertion, barely moving, pushing against an unseen barrier. “He must be drunk,” they must have thought as my front wheel wobbled against the crosswind. Isolated in their 2 ton bubbles they would have barely noticed the torrent I was facing.

My steepest climb faces exactly southwest. It’s short, but difficult on even the best of days. It’s near the end of my ride, when I am at my limit. I sat in, trying to minimize my effort on the long slope leading to the steepest section, and then was brought to almost a standstill as I turned into the wind. Getting out of the saddle I was almost jumping on the pedals to keep moving forward. It felt like the wind was blowing even stronger, as if it knew this was its last chance to make me succumb. With every muscle screaming, I finally turned away from the wind and tried to recover on the gradual slope leading to the next climb. Mentally, I knew I was finished, I had made it through the worst of it, survived my battle with the unseen enemy.

There is nothing like a challenge that you meet head on to put you in a great mood. Bike rides doubly so. The physical exertion puts the thrill of success over the top. Yesterday I did something that I wasn’t sure was possible, and today I am a better cyclist because of it.

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