Yesterday and today I did nearly sixty kilometres on my road bicycle up the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve in North Vancouver. Perfect weather prompted and aided this. Well maybe, for it rained yesterday as I rode up the hills still topped with snow and drove the bike between the cold, tall trees and spots of sun.
You get on riding clothes: tight black pants with no flapping; top underwear of warm wool and sweat-resistant polyester; gloves; and a rain-resistant jacket. Then onto the bike. It is light, taunt, and glides along the asphalt as you push the peddles and the leg muscles scream pain at the steep uphill climbs.
Along the way you encounter diverse riders. The kid, no more than six or seven with indulgent but demanding parents who are riding him up the hills I struggle to attain. The oriental couple in expensive leather jackets and high-heels on expensive but inappropriate bikes. The Italian group with diverse cross-country bikes and that suspicions look who are pondering a map on a poster-board telling them of downhills along Fisherman’s Trail and solitary vistas of an ice-fed river gushing down deep gorges. I stopped to tell them what awaited them and wished them luck as they plunged into the forest and trails where I have been stopped by deer as surprised be me as I by them.
From the townhouse, you first take a look at the magnificent new movie school of Capilano University, and with reluctance turn to pass the parking lot where motor cycles are lined up and leather-jacketed women and skinny men prepare to learn the skills of a motor cycle. I do not envy them, in spite of the ease with which they will traverse roads and miles of distance. I persist with the pedal and the leg pain, for this is visceral reality, the essence of being as the body (old) and nature coexist.
At the top of the trail, you stop, exhausted, to sit a while in the still sun and luxuriate in the opulence of sun and adrenaline. Across the road a group of skate-boarders is sitting, shirtless, talking loud of sun on a pail body not touched by sun in months. They are young and rough. Their speech is punctuated by “like” as every second word. You know the speech-rhythm: “He said, like, this is great. Like, he is getting good, like. But as he gets better, like, he becomes more competitive. I don’t kind of like that he, like, does that.”
You forgive them their speech restrictions and ineloquence for you are happy basking in the sun and the calm that comes of vast physical exertion. You don your doffed helmet and resume the climb up yet another hill, for by now there is no pain in the leg muscles. Either body chemicals have suppressed pain or you have just become strong. It is easy to climb those far hills and overtake lovers on cheap bicycles. You laugh as the man stands on the peddles to get extra power to overtake his lady lover and then back-peddles to await her as she huffs and puffs up a steep incline on thick tires.
Finally you emerge back to the starting area and collapse on a bench to watch others pass by, just beginning the cycle or just ending the exertion. Two middle-age women sit behind you and you start up a conversation with them. One is fat and pretty. The other is hard and masculine as she slathers hand cream on her face. “How much further to Rice Lake?” is the concern of the fat one. “You must get cardiovascular exercise,” the hard one admonishes and so you let them go their way and get back on the bike to whizz down the final three kilometres.
These are the best. For it is almost all downhill and the speed is great. As you hit one after the other speed-bump, you rise on the peddles and free your body of the saddle. Thus you glide and sail over the humps and wonder: “Should I brake to slow, or just take this speed as it comes and take the chance? For if I fell now, it would be great pain.” But gravity answers and you just go faster and faster and bounce the speed-bumps as your knees flex to the rhythm of the road.
Hence home and a big pot of tea.