Riding the Big Silver Beast.
Nothing can beat getting this close to nature and youself.
Riding the Big Silver Beast
The colour’s not important but she’s definitely silver. Silver and black, but mostly silver. And she’s big. I don’t like riding small bikes where you never get to stretch your legs the full distance, and my knees hit the handle bars. I like to sit as far off the road as I can. She’s a hybrid, best parts of a road bike mixed in with the best of a mountain bike. Sturdy: able for moderately rough tracks, but with a bit of speed for the smooth, long ride along the road to work.
She doesn’t have a name being an inanimate object, but I care about her. I love mending punctures and buying new bits for her: panniers, inner tubes, lights. She was a present from my wife.
I’ve started to buy myself bike-related stuff too, very out of character. I bought a long sleeve cycle jersey today. It’s yellow; bright, unmissable, canary yellow so that cars will see me.
Mostly just now I like to take the beast out early in the mornings. Sunday is best. No-one about. At five or six o’clock I head out quietly so as not to waken the children. We follow the empty road to Lisburn, exulting in the freshness in the morning and even in the strain I feel in my calf and thigh muscles as they heat up.
At Lisburn we drop down onto the path along the river and turn back towards Belfast through country fields, the wind hitting us from a different angle, and us moving round so that the sun shines across our path. The water is quiet in June. We pass a few joggers, some who weren’t built for jogging. There’s the occasional other cyclist, but apart from that we enjoy the non-human bits of creation as we try not to disturb them.
We revel in everything around us and we stop from time to time to admire, to observe and to note the glory that could drown us.
After about an hour we’re back in the city, leaving the river bank to ride around more yet empty streets around the university. No students yet. Near the hospital there’s a coffee house that opens early and I anchor the beast to the rail outside. It’s a good place to read on a quiet morning. It’s still early, just 7.30. I like to stay awhile, especially on Sundays because they always seem to be well named – Sun day. The sun always seems to shine in through the big windows onto my back and I like to luxuriate in a passage of Giono’s Que ma joie demeure. I like the opening passages best where the sound and smell of freshly brewing coffee represent a secure dwelling place, more secure and solid than any manmade house.
It’s hard to start the ride home. My muscles have cooled and stiffened a bit and the road is a moderate incline all the way with no respite. Fifteen minutes later I’m home.
I clean the beast down if necessary. I shave in hot water then jump into a freezing cold shower for as long as I can take it. I am alive. Breakfast. I dress, then it’s back onto the beast to get over to the office in Church, and from there to the pulpit for 11 o’clock to spend quality time with another aspect of what God has created.