When I was riding home from work on Tuesday, I chose to go down Columbia (shown above) over Snowville because there’s less traffic and it’s generally more scenic. However, Columbia does have a rather roaring pitch to the bottom, though it–unlike many of the roads in the valley–does not end abruptly at a stop sign. Technically, I could ride it at speed and enjoy the drop. However, the road twists a few times during the descent and I’m completely uncomfortable with speeding around blind corners. Mainly because I’m afraid I’ll turn the bend and find a deer or something standing in the middle of my lane. It’s weird, too, because the highest speed I’d probably attain would be around 40mph. Fast on a bike, but really kind of slow in a car or on a motorcycle. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’d be more comfortable taking those turns at 35mph on a motorcycle than on a bike. If a deer did happen to be standing in the middle of the lane around the corner, the end result on a motorcycle and a bicycle would probably be the same:
Crash. Uncoordinated dismount. Pain.
On a motorcycle, though, you can stop on a dime. Stopping on a bicycle is much less precise. The faster you go, the harder it is to stop abruptly. In fact, pulling the brakes hard on a bicycle has the less desirable side effect of pitching you forward (which I think is how I must of fell during the Dog Incident of 2004). And once you stop on a bike, you have less than a second to put your feet down because gravity will begin working again and the bike will tip sideways. It seems that on a motorcycle you have a few more seconds to put your feet down before it will topple. It seems it takes more work to balance a bicycle.
So am I saying that I’d rather be doing speed around a corner on motorcycle than a bicycle? Or that I’m more comfortable? Maybe it’s all an illusion and both activities are equally as dangerous.
I get mad at myself when I don’t let myself get up to speed on my bicycle. So I brake a lot down roads such as Columbia. And while I’m doing that, I worry that I’m wearing out my brakes and that they will give out on me. Yeah, I find something to obsess about constantly. How am I enjoying these activities if my mind is in a constant state of worry?
Some people would say that I should just roll with the punches. Ride safely, but if a danger is encountered, do your best to avoid it. If it is unavoidable, deal with the consequences. It usually turns out all right, especially on a bicycle. You just end up bruised or, in my case with the Dog Incident, bumped up quite a bit with a concussion. But I am still alive. Over the last several weeks, four people in my bike club have tossed it and all of them have ended up in the hospital. But no one died. So the odds are in my favor, right?
I don’t know why I am so deathly afraid of injury. I think my fear is more immediate than everyone else’s. I think people are always aware of the possibility of danger, but they aren’t thinking of it constantly. In my mind, during any given day–during any activity–I’m thinking about every possible scenario in which something could go wrong and I could get injured or die. My head is polluted with these thoughts constantly. It’s very wearing. I just can’t stop focusing on it. And it keeps my fingers gripped on the brakes of my bike on all downhills. When I can tell my speed is accelerating, my heart jumps as though I’d just seen a deer cross my path.
It’s hard to live in a constant state of fear. I guess, I don’t know, I’m obsessed by my mortality. I see all these deaths around me and I always feel like I’ve narrowly escaped something. I worry about getting cancer or MS… I mentally see oncoming traffic crashing into me when I’m in my car. I wonder sometimes if I just won’t wake up in the morning. I know it’s illogical because I’m healthy. But Mike was healthy too. And his death never made sense in my head. Most death makes no sense. It seems that only when someone is old does death make sense in our puny human brains.
At least I don’t let my fears rule me. I live with the fear and I am embrace its warnings. But I don’t let it stop me from doing those things I want to do. I will never let it stop me from doing what I want to do. If you think about it, none of us is going to live forever. I’d rather die having turned my life into a fun, exciting adventure than having sit at home afraid to leave the house. So if I ever do die participating in an activity I love–skiing, cycling, motorcycling, traveling–then at least be comforted with the idea that I did not go down quietly. Be assured that I was having a good time. I know it’s cliche, but I’d rather die doing something I love than the way Mike went, dying in bed on a Saturday morning from a heart that couldn’t handle the intensity of his love.