Joy Riding

God I’m tired.

I’m tired and my arse is sore, and my legs feel funny. As suggestive as those things are, I’ve only gone and bloody cycled 26 miles today. A marathon on wheels. Not as bad as a marathon, no, but still. I’m knackered. Well and truly done. And it was brilliant.

I love travel. Not arriving at the destination, although the satisfaction of that is excellent, but the actual act of travelling itself. It’s an event, and it lets you slip between the lines that make up our lives the rest of the time. You’re changing tracks, moving from one place to another, and in that moment, the interim between departure and arrival, you’re all but a ghost, formless, a Schroedinger object that’s very existence is a question mark. In my energy-deprived mind, such romanticism is allowed.

It’s more than that, though, especially when your motion, your propulsion, is driven by you rather than some external force. A cycle is the fastest way to achieve that, and I spent three hours on my bike today getting to and from the school where I’m tutoring. I got lost, I got found, and I struggled up some truly monstrous hills. Beyond the physical achievement, I’ve got something navigatorial done today too, and that feels pretty great, even if it was a somewhat inevitability. It’s the sort of contained achievement that you can experience on your own without much danger of failure. A test in the lab, rather than out on the streets, where it’s dirty.

That’s the crux of it, I think. It’s being able to exert yourself in a very specific way and get results immediately. You are here, you apply force, and you are there. Simple, elegant, and satisfying. You’ve achieved something attainable and within sight, and now onto the next hundred meters, the next road, the next intersection. And when you get lost, you can reorient yourself, figure out where you need to go, and achieve that too. It’s all very simple, but undeniably rewarding. Of course, my arse disagrees, but luckily it only deals in inarticularities.

There is an appeal in that slipping through the cracks though. People don’t say ‘ring me while you’re travelling’. It’s only ever ‘when you get there’ or ‘before you leave’, or, at best ‘when you get close’. They’re not concerned with the travel itself, only that you make it to the other end, slip back out of the vacuum and into normal space, so you can be pinned down, categorised, labelled. I guess that’s another appeal of it. It’s escapism in doses, letting you see people you don’t normally see, places you don’t pass often. A commute might be a daily thing, but it’s still a moment of the day that’s your own, no matter how crowded the train/road/street may be. Alone in a crowd, is there ever a more apt cliche?

The other thing about travelling 26 miles on a bike is that now I know I can do it, and that’s enough, all on its own. Of course I thought I could. I may even have believed I could, but knowing is an entirely different beast. Knowledge is reassurance and safety, and it’s the lack of knowledge that preys upon the imagination and drives people to anxiety attacks. Just saying.

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About Phill Cameron

I've graduated, had a look at the world, and spat. Now I'm devoting my time to moving from 3/4 of a games journalist to 9/10ths. I figure I can get away with 9/10ths.
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