Tuesday, January 06, 2009
One of the things I love about bike riders is that those of us who are addicted tend to understand each other—or at least a key part of each other—as soon as we meet. We share a craving that normal people can’t fathom.
My recent trip south was a non-biking family vacation. As much as I’d love to always see foreign countries at a slow, intimate pace from the saddle of a bike, my wife doesn’t share my fascination with pedaling for hours every day, so I spent two weeks moving around the north island of New Zealand behind a steering wheel. And that wasn’t such a bad thing; time off the bike can be good, now and then.
But I knew in advance that I’d need to ride at least a trail or two, so I made sure to have a jersey, shorts, shoes and pedals in my duffle bag. By the time we reached Wellington, I need either a two-wheel fix, or in-patient treatment for withdrawal symptoms.
I found the Bike Barn on Wakefield Street, and rented—or “hired,” as they say in those parts—a Kona Cinder Cone for the afternoon. I made a couple of comments about needing some ride time to get my personality back. As we were walking to the front counter, the shop guy said he understood, because he gets irritable if he can’t ride for a couple of days.
We talked that afternoon about how riding is a genuine mental and physical need that other people can’t comprehend. He told me that he shares a flat with five other people, and that it works because they’re all mountain bikers. When they reach a point where they’re getting on each others’ nerves, they grab the bikes and go for a group ride. After a couple of hours of laughing and crashing together, they all like each other again.
I stuffed a map in my pocket, clipped in and headed for the trails on Mount Victoria, right at the edge of downtown. There wasn’t a huge amount of terrain to ride on a rented hardtail, and not even a hint of the kind of wilderness I'm used to at home, but I reached the summit and enjoyed beautiful views of Wellington. I rode through an unusual forest with signs labeling spots where Lord of the Rings was filmed. I scratched up my leg on some brush, and listened to my tires rolling over dirt.
It felt good. And when I got back to my wife and daughter at the end of the day, I was a little easier to live with.