It’s a sweltering summer day in the city. You’ve decided to embrace cycling, make it part of your exercise regimen. So you’re attired in a blue helmet, dark sunglasses, yellow jersey, black shorts, light-weight cycling shoes, ready to ride for the first time.
Sitting on the hard seat, gripping the handle bars, pressing the peddles, balancing the mountain bike, as if a man on a high-wire, you begin three hours of cycling.
One hour into the ride, your body’s heated up like a furnace. You begin perspiring like you’re sitting in a sauna. You take a few sips of bottled water, peddle onward.
For a couple of miles, you cycle quickly on a flat stretch of street, close to the curb, past rows of parked cars, past condos sprouting like dandelions, past house of all shapes and sizes, past the occasional park with a playground, past a few bus stops, a gas station.
Like someone navigating a minefield, you peer in all directions, looking for potential hazards— discarded pop cans, sewer grates, jay walking pedestrians, pot holes, a motorist drifting too close, as if distracted, perhaps texting on a smartphone.
You cycle past a row of parked cars. Someone who’s not paying attention, opens their car door, blocking your path. You quickly look back, detect empty space, steer the handle bars left, veering your bike away from danger.
As you cycle, you observe an endless number of trucks, buses, cars, occasional motorcycle whizzing past, like they’re in a rush to some place important. Sometimes you pass another cyclist peddling slowly, like someone on a leisurely stroll.
A mile up the street, you zigzag between two rows of cars stopped at a red light. When the light turns green, the cars accelerate as if beginning a race. You smell the stench of exhaust, cough a few times, then balance the bike, sit on the seat, begin to peddle for another mile, when you’re greeted by a steep hill.
Rather than dismount, walk your bike to the top, like you’ve given up, you gear down into low, peddle slowly, climbing the hill without stopping. Yet, you still feel as if you’re carrying a backpack of fifty pounds.
At the top of the hill, you stop to catch your breath, look back, tell yourself “I’ve climbed to the tip of a mountain.” Then you re-balance your bike, sit on the seat, press on the peddles, descend the steep hill, feeling a cool breeze blowing in your face, as if sitting on a swift-flying sailboat, catching the wind.
Returning to a flat stretch of street, where the traffic’s sparse, you cycle at a leisurely pace, gaze at the strangers on the sidewalk, past a handicapped man in a wheel chair, past a elderly woman walking her poodle, past a crowd waiting like their bored at a bus stop, past the shopkeeper selling fresh fruit and vegetables.
You’re feeling relaxed, beginning to enjoy the exercise, when a motorist cuts in front of your bike, without signalling, breaks to make a right turn on a green light—you quickly squeeze the hand breaks.
You’re upper body’s propelled forward, out of the seat, over the top of the handle bars, like someone shot out of a cannon. Yet, somehow you maintain your grip, prevent yourself from falling onto the pavement. Another motorist behind, honks his horn, then passes, yelling “Get off the busy street!”
You cycle for several more miles, your body perspiring, your energy depleting, like a gas tank on empty. You drink the remaining bottle of water, cycle back to your neighborhood, where it’s a friendly, quiet,peaceful place, where there’s no moving automobiles, no trucks, no buses, no noise.
In front of your apartment, you dismount from the mountain bike, your legs feeling stiff, your mouth parched, your face, jersey, shorts soaked with perspiration. You’re feeling somewhat stressed, yet euphoric, high on endorphins, like you’ve just run a marathon.