That’s the spirit

Riding bikes is all about fun.  If you think it’s about anything else, whether it be fitness or convenience, then you’re not off the mark, but never forget that fun came first.  What else pushed you to the point of excitement as a kid, thinking about going out on a bike ride?  Yeah, the fun of it.

Yesterday, I got out on a ride with someone completely new to Chengdu.  They’d had a rough go of their time here, so far.  Communication issues, a lost phone, and just the daze of being in an absolutely foreign country, with none of the standard comforts you expect in life.  Insert bike ride.

They were up for seeing the real deal China.  It’s hard to guess at what this means from person to person, but for me it means seeing the new and the old, the rich and the poor, the pristine and the decimated.  Visiting China is all about the manic highs and lows, and the ease with which you can pedal from one to the other.

My ride partner wanted to see the country, which in a rapidly growing city of 14 million, is increasingly tricky.  I know a few sweet little pockets in the city, but they’re under threat of change.  Meaning: any given week you may show up and find your nice little backdoor, out of traffic, completely erased, and replaced with a mud track instead.

Queue mud track.  We rode through a brand new park (that I can verify didn’t exist 2 months ago), before popping out on an old stretch of canal-side farm road.  This part, apparently, isn’t done yet.  With a few wet days behind us the road was a thick slurry of clay.  Brown, grey, green, red.  I’d never seen such a variety of clay on such a short track.  Needless to say, we ended up doing a bit of a hike-a-bike.  With only about 500 meters of hucking and trudging, we stopped at least three times to clear our bikes and shoes of mud before being able to press forward.

Normally, this is the part of the ride, where whomever I’m with, finds themselves inconsolably pissed off at me.  This was most easily the worst track of mud I’d ever gotten myself into, adding insult to injury.  But the best part?  My fellow rider was having a ball.  Each stop, stick hunt and mud-slinging brought more and more laughter.  The more obscured the visage of our bikes became beneath all the dirt, the higher the spirits.

So it got me thinking, why is it that people usually get so damned bent out of shape in these situations?  They’re resolvable.  Lurch forward, find a hose, spray off, carry on!  Granted this process, itself, can be a bit tedious. But when looking back on it all, nothing is more valuable than feeling as though there’s something more memorable about the occasion.  I’ll be hard-pressed to recall ten, absolutely incident-less rides, for each and every battle against some bizarre element.

Nor does it help when those that you ride with have a raging storm floating over their head.  The point being, if you’re out for a ride, embrace it and have a good time.  If you aren’t enjoying it, then keep it to yourself.  Chances are, if you aren’t enjoying it, others in-part are also having a rough go of it. Voicing this negativity just serves to fuel others, and a ride quickly goes from being about having fun to being a big stinky poop.

If you’re out there and you’re caught in the rain, stuck in the mud, or on your third flat for the day, just remember to keep your attitude positive.  If you think upbeat, you ride upbeat. (Or just take it as a clue that you probably shouldn’t trust someone else’s route choice, and should propose a ride of your own choosing, instead.)

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