Riding With Your Senses

When I first started riding, it was simply to become a cyclist.  I had no idea how much more of my life would be affected by the simple action of getting on my bike and pedaling.  This spring is the third spring of my short cycling journey.  While I am able to ride year round for the most part, spring and autumn are my favorite riding seasons.  The reasons for this are many, but include the mildbike temperatures and great scenery, just to name a couple of them.

I shared in a previous post called “Simple Pleasures” some thoughts on spring riding.  In that post, I focused primarily on the sights of spring and the gift of witnessing nature’s rebirth from the moving perspective of a bicycle.  In this post, I want to share with you a connection with the outdoors that tends to get noticed a bit less.

As a cyclist on the road, I constantly call upon my eyes and ears to help navigate through traffic safely.  If I’m out riding my mountain bike, I’m constantly scanning the rapidly passing single track for rocks, tree roots, sand, and other obstacles that require reaction.  The sense of touch also comes into play when making clothing choices for a ride, feathering brakes before rounding a corner, or feeling for sharp objects inside a tire.

But smell??  I’ve learned over the years that my nose has the ability to pick up scents that go unnoticed by many of the people around me.  It’s both a blessing and a curse.  Because of my sensitive nose, smell is a component of each of my rides.   Some smells are obnoxiously pungent… like the dead animal along side the road.  Others are subtler… like the

lilacssmell of lilacs that linger in the air for a couple of weeks in late spring. I often wonder as I pedal along whether I will encounter the same smell in the same place as I last experienced it on any given route.

For the last two years in a row, I’ve encountered a sweet fragrance that lasts only about four days before it dissipates.  The first time I noticed it, I wondered what it was and before I knew it, it was gone.  Last year when I smelled it, I remembered it from the previous year and knew that I needed to get out and ride while it was there or it would soon be gone.    I’m anticipating that fragrance this year.  I hope to be able to identify which plant is giving off that scent.  It will likely be difficult to pinpoint because it thoroughly permeates the air.

I like to think that all the time I spend riding my bikes has made me a wiser person as I pedal along and ponder life.  Here’s the correlation I have made between that fleeting scent and life as I have experienced it: We may or may not have the opportunity to re-encounter an experience, let alone realize the significance of any experience until it has passed.  Engage your senses ~ all of them.  Thoroughly experience what life offers you, even if it’s just for a fleeting moment in time.  Take in the experience, and take it with you when you go.

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Day in Denver

Not long ago my husband announced that he would be going to downtown Denver on a Friday morning for a meeting.  He proposed that we meet for lunch and spend the afternoon in Denver.  Having been married for fifteen years, I could read between the lines and see I was being asked out on a date.  Like any cyclist, I managed to work a bike ride into the logistics of this date.   While he was in his meeting, I would pedal my way from the suburbs into the city and meet him just in time for our lunch date.  We could then put the bike in the car and go from there in one vehicle.

I have become quite familiar with the “good” (read: bicycle friendly) roads near my home.  I know just where to go to keep my ride relatively flat, which is not an easy task when you live along the foothills.   I know where to go when I want to climb.   But most importantly, I know which roads to avoid because they’re just too narrow to accommodate cars and bikes safely at the same time.  But pedaling into Denver?  This was new territory for me.

I did some online research using sites like Strava and RidewithGPS to determine the best route from my house.  I committed the route to memory so that I could avoid any unnecessary stops along the way.  After all, I didn’t want to keep my handsome date waiting!  I had no way of knowing that construction would close parts of the bike path I was planning to use; or that detours along the path would have useless or non-existent signage for directing bike traffic.  Once I left the bike path, I had no idea if the roads I would be traveling would have bike lanes or shoulders.  It was an adventure on carbon fiber.

Tulips in full bloom!

Tulips in full bloom!

While I did encounter some unexpected construction, I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the irises were taller, more flowers were in bloom, and the grass was greener as the elevation dropped the nearer I got to the city.  The construction and the detours did slow me down, but all I had to do was look up for the skyscrapers to know which general direction I needed to be going.

Sometimes all you need to keep moving forward in life, or to keep from going in circles, is a general sense of direction.  Yes, any ride along a new route is bound to have some unexpected turns and obstacles, just like life does.  So look up for a brief moment, get your bearings, and keep pedaling.  You might look down to see something you hadn’t noticed before!

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Simple Pleasures

Spring riding is some of the best of the year.  Let’s face it, we’ve been cooped up indoors all winter for the most part with only a handful of rides outside when it isn’t snowing, blowing like a hurricane, or just entirely too cold to be outside for any length of time, particularly on a moving bicycle.  Once daylight savings begins, the evenings are lighter longer.  Those precious extra minutes of light can mean the difference between a ride or riding longer.  Along with the birds, the wildlife, and the wildflowers, cyclists are also rejoicing for spring!

As I was out for my first mountain bike ride of the year the other day, I could hear the hawks soaring overhead.  Once in awhile as I pedaled along, they would fly close enough that I could actually hear the flap of wings as they cut through the air.  I heard meadowlarks whistle their greetings from fenceposts.

It’s not uncommon to see deer on North Table Mountain.  Typically, I see them in clusters of 2-5 deer.  But this time there must have been ten young deer grazing along the singletrack.  Most of them just stood there and watched me pedal by.  Typically, the deer will scatter when you approach, but I guess this young batch had not yet been spooked by a human before and saw no reason to flee from me as I went by.

A few wildflowers were blooming here and there.  In fact, they were so small I wouldn’t have noticed them if I hadn’t stopped for a drink of water.  Normally I wear a hydration pack of sorts while mountain biking, but on this day I had decided to forego it and loaded my jersey pockets with tools and filled a water bottle instead.  I knew it would slow me down to drink, but seeing the tiny lavender and pink petals made the stop worthwhile.

This connection with nature that you can only experience while in its midst has got to be one of the simplest pleasures life has to offer.  Experiencing it on a bike while your heart is pounding, your feet are pedaling, and your breath is audible magnifies the soothing nature of the experience.  It’s almost like you experience it in slow motion, from a hawk’s perspective.  The rhythm of your pedal strokes and breath colliding so perfectly with nature’s circle of life… it’s like they were made for each other!  But don’t take my word for it.  Go see for yourself!

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Jacquie outmaneuvering the water bars at Mt. Falcon