Alex

Dear Alex,

Where do I start gushing about you?

Before you, it was a vague dream somewhere in my subconscious, one of the many items in my mental list of things to do someday. Then, as I considered getting a car (which is also called Alex though I don’t derive the same pleasure as I do when I’m with you) and the first factor I thought of after the cost was the size to allow a bike in it. I’d waited that long to get a car and no way was I getting one that wouldn’t allow me to pursue another dream.

Car done. The first event I took part in was a disaster, at least physically. It turns out my old MTB was the wrong size for me (don’t get me started on the staff in the shop who didn’t advise me about that fact), causing me significant pain in my shoulders, wrists, arms, back and legs. Let’s not forget the numbness I got in my crotch during the ride and the unforgettable post-ride discomfort in that area.

And so I became obsessed in finding a bike in my size and trying to stick within the budget I’d set aside. Has that ever worked for me when it’s for something I’ve desired for so long? Research, calls and visits to shops later, I decided on you, and we wouldn’t have been acquainted if you were pink as the one displayed in the shop. They had it in blue, the man rushed to tell me as I was leaving the shop. You’re blue, in matte (vs gloss, ughh), right for my height and you didn’t quite break my budget, though as I started with accessories, I thought the hell with the budget. Saddle! The aches and pain from the first ride were still fresh in my memory, and I knew I just couldn’t live with one that would kill me each time I went for a ride.

As I got used to riding a road bike with trainers, I decided to put the clipless pedals to use and started with cycling shoes. You and I are essentially one as my feet are clipped into the pedals, a fact that makes falling very awkward and comical as bike and human tumble together. The first time that happened was in front of Masjid Putra in Putrajaya, right in front of several buses full of tourists from China. A fraction of a second before I landed, I realised I didn’t have a leg free. So tumble I did like Humpty Dumpty.

Since Jan 2016 with you, I’m aware how much you’ve helped me heal and process my life by allowing me to channel my frustrations, vent negativities, put thoughts into words, come up with ideas etc by distracting me from the immediate issues and enabling me to explore by finding joy in nature. I’ve always needed such an outlet for the fire that I can’t seem to douse. Not that I want to do that. With you and the other Alex, I have that now and I’m ever thankful for it.

The loop I’ve come up with usually clears my head as I enter the vicinity of that village, where the temperature dips slightly with all the trees around. Surrounded by the damp muskiness of the woods as birds and insects chirping incessantly, I’ll pant up THAT ever hateful slope to get to the road along the stream, which flowing water creates a melody that calms me.

I reckon being out there with you is the closest I get to feeling naked and free outdoors. it all adds up: the rush I get whirring down that straight road without any junctions, the swearing when a climb approaches, the sweat, the burn in my thighs on climbs and rounding bends a bit too fast when it’s safe to do so. They make me feel oh-so-wonderfully gleeful, with the wind, the sun (and sometimes rain) and other elements of nature whipping up their magic.

And I’ve learned that cycling is a lot like life and relationships (platonic and romantic). Group rides just aren’t for me and I much prefer to go solo as it’s therapy for me. Just because most people are with a group going at 35km/h, it doesn’t mean that works for me. Everyone’s different-their needs, wants, capabilities etc-and nobody should fit into a mould.

Spending time with you has also taught me that at times, I need to let go and plot another ride, NOT go on the same route repeatedly especially when that doesn’t give me any joy. Some routes challenge me, and I grow and learn, while some just break me despite the breathtaking scenery. I like to think I’ve learned to choose my battles and be more selective as at times, the effort just isn’t worth it.

It’s not always a breeze, cycling and life. There are climbs to get over before I can speed downhill and a flat route can be boring or a great relief depending on the overall mood. Being on two wheels has also taught me to look forward most of the time; though there are times when it’s absolutely necessary to be aware of my surroundings by paying attention to what’s going on both sides and behind.

I’ve also learned that a tiny shift can make a HUGE difference, and I’m speaking from my crotch. You see, as that area grows numb from all the time in the saddle, I’ve found that lifting my bum up by several mm on a bumpy road eases some pain, and doing that when there are holes and bumps saves me from A LOT of pain. Shifting my position front or back just a tiny bit also eases the pressure from certain parts when I’m in different positions. This applies in life too, just like the Tesco tagline: Every Little Helps.

My favourite spot so far is thankfully not that far away. I love how I’ve learned to notice the spot over the fishing pond where the morning mist is the last to disappear from; the stretch of road by the river where I can safely speed downhill; the section where it’s the darkest due to the trees overhead, where it spooks and thrills me at the same time, where the rays of the sun struggle to reach the surface of the road, where when the rays break though the treetops, they dance and create a melody through the leaves.

You allow me to escape and heal, to be present and thankful. And most importantly, you remind me that the pain in my legs is worth the ride.

 

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