“I want to become nothing but the suffered and rhythmic breathing of a body pushing itself hard against its limits.”
To wax poetic, the dawn is always a bringer of new things. Another day is rising, a fresh start, another chance to embrace life with a choke-hold and toss it to the ground. As the sun crests over the craggy flanks of Grotto Mountain, the dark side of the valley comes alive. You can literally feel the warmth increase as the shadows on Canmore Wall are forced to recede by the sun. Looking east the light is blinding and forces me to shield my sleep filled eyes. Good lord, why am I up so bloody early? And why am I on my bike?
Anyone who has known me for any length of time understands my distaste for morning. But recently our household has been rising with the sun in an attempt to get something done before work. That something has held many faces from running to laundry to lifting weights in a gym, but today it will be something brand new for me. An early morning ride.
I’m not entirely opposed to this, and to a large extent I actually find the prospect exciting. I love riding bikes. I love thinking, and also I love the exercise of “not thinking” through focus and activity. The obvious observation is that some of my best moments of being present occur when I’m alone on a bike spinning through the forests, but rarely do they occur first thing in the morning. Today I’m trying to combine the two by commuting to work on my bike, and conveniently the route I take will drop into singletrack in roughly 100 metres from my front door and exit onto asphalt after a solid 15 or so kilometers. With a hard left turn just outside of my door, the Canmore Nordic Centre can be made to lay between my bed and my office, so really I would be a poor community member to not ride to work.
It isn’t long after I arrive at the CNC that I realize I’m probably the only person on the trails this morning. I have pedaled up EKG East to the Laundry Chutes trailhead. Not even so much as a mist moves through the trees, the forest as crisp and virgin as it ever has been. There are birds coming to life, thrushes maybe, or robins waking to the sunrise, and without a doubt there are unseen bears all over this place stumbling through the undergrowth, and cougars and deer sliding in silence and stealth through the pines.
At the trailhead I tap the button to lower my seat post and launch in. My legs and lungs will hurt at the bottom. I’m a firm believer that descents are not for resting. The Laundry Chutes are pretty bombed out these days. Sections of off camber roots want to sweep the bike out from under you and the trail has started to drift to the side, evolving with each rider’s style and presence. The switchbacks are tight but quick and I thread my wheels between rocks and roots seeking smooth lines and quickness, using the terrain to guide my bike while carrying as much speed as I can. I ride with my weight up front over my bars and push the bike into the corners, and before I know it I’m sprinting across the traverse on FYI, trusting my tires to hold through the blind corners. Down to the roller ski loop and back to the stadium to breathe in the cool morning air and soak up some sunlight before taking Soft Yogurt and Devonian Drop toward downtown.
I have been completely alone with precise focus. I have thought nothing of the coming day and the things that will be taking my energy and nibbling at my being. The little bits of daily life that pluck away from your person like skin sloughing off under you clothes. Sweat drips from under my helmet. My body is tired but awake, and for now my mind and body are whole. There can be no better way to start a work day. There can be no better way to start any day.
This is my bike culture.
BY KD | DYCKKNOWS.COM
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