I let myself forget that being away from the discipline of consistent riding would mean having to start over again. But did I say that it only really feels bad starting over for the first ten miles and then I remember that within all that effort is a reliable strength in my body that hasn’t been tested too badly over the winter? I remember that winter is an easy thing from which one recovers. And on those winter days when I wasn’t riding…sure, I missed my bike, but I have no complaints about the time spent with my dog on the couch.
This being out of shape is old news though. There is an off season to dancing and, just like cyclists, there is a fair amount of stealth training going on then. Injuries sometimes have to get healed, surgeries happen. The body of a dancer is constantly being built up, refined, and re-tooled, off season or not. A class heavy on turns prepares a dancer for one ballet, a class heavy on big jumps for another. It really is an incredible machine, the dancer’s body; not just sleek-looking in terms of athleticism, but created and truly tuned for the purpose of movement of any and every kind. Then further refined for each particular show.
If the bike is an extension of body, a way to get that much more strength and speed out of it through the benefits of real mechanics, then there is familiarity to be found in building and tuning it. There is familiarity to be found in putting one together, at least once. It is possible that it is not so much speed or racing that I am in love with on the bike but the mechanics that I know nothing or very little about, just as when I was dancing I could not tell you one tendon in my hip from the next. I knew broken, sore, and strained. I knew flexible, strong, and loose. But intuitively, or more precisely intuitiveness achieved through years of ballet training, I knew how to build my body and had people around me, coaches and teachers, always helping me refine it and I liked that the machine worked smoothly and predictably, almost one hundred percent of the time. I enjoy the larger mechanics of my bike with a much greater vagueness.
So the newness of putting a two wheeled machine together, knowing the kind of rides that I am putting that bike together for and how it will be built with specific purposes, lines, and details in mind hits an irresistible intersection. Repetitive as seasons can seem, my spring has this much anticipated first in it, the first bike I will somewhat put together, somewhat in that there will be a great deal of help of course, and I think mainly I will have the bike components in my hands for a moment or two, then someone else will do the cabling and bolting together. The various parts are arriving in boxes. The frame, a really wonderful one, will arrive around my birthday in May, just in time for summer. And there is an old tandem bike that has come to me and I am thinking about refurbishing that, as well. Those are my new hill climbs. Unfamiliar, yet exceptionally inviting.
There will be an added kinship with the new bike; not quite handmade by me, not quite the shaping of the body that is dancing, but a building and putting together by hand that is mechanical and function-driven on the surface of it, but at heart, complete sweetness and light. Emily Gresh