Balls In The Air

If you’re always going against whatever it is everyone else is saying or doing they call that being a “contrarian,” like it’s a bad thing. But I don’t believe that’s a bad thing–I guess because I’m a contrarian, but that’s not the point. The point is that being a “contrarian” is not being ornery for orneriness’s sake; it’s merely making subtle corrections when the world is veering wildly in one direction or the other.

This is part of the joy of riding a bicycle–an ostensibly “contrarian” pursuit in that everyone else seems to think you’re wrong and annoying and just trying to be different, but in fact a joyous one that is essentially the art of making subtle corrections. The terrain and the drivers and the squirrels and even gravity itself are conspiring at all times to take you down, but through a subtle series of inputs you barely need to even think about you’re able guide yourself and your machine through it all. The act soothes you, it comforts you, and it transports you–both physically and spiritually–and it’s a reminder that as zany and madcap and fatuous and antagonistic as the world may seem there’s something in each of us that will guide us to where we need to go. Really the trick is to ignore the distractions and remember that the bike goes where you look. So it’s up to you to figure out where to look.

Of course some of us get too carried away with all this. It’s not enough to revel in the subtle art of correction while riding; you’ve also got to do it with your bike choice. You get a second bike, a third bike, a fourth–each one correcting for some “deficiency” in the last one. A fast bike, a comfortable bike, a skinny-tire bike, a fat-tire bike. A fixed-gear, a 12-speed, a single speed…integrated shifters, downtube shifters, indexed shifters, no shifters. Each bike seems perfect in the moment, and the manner in which they contrast is its own form of perfection, and so you move from one to the other, like running back and forth between the pool and the sauna.

All of this a roundabout way of saying that we’re now well into the fall:

And after a long period of riding road bikes with skinny tires, this past weekend I rode an upright bike with fat tires:

When the leaves of autumn blanket the trails ample tire volume lets you ride without fear of the many unseen sticks and stones that might otherwise break your bones:

I hadn’t spent any real time on the Jones since my end-of-summer vacation, during which I rode it much of the time, and as I always do after a long absence I reveled in its particular form of perfection:

That being the manner in which it’s perfectly at home on the roads and smooth trails:

And yet you can keep riding it as deep into the woods as you may care to go:

I went deeper into the woods than that but I was enjoying myself too much to take photos.

Yes, no bike is immune to trail hazards, and it was almost exactly four years ago now that I was riding this very bike only to be felled by an Osage orange:

Well, there I was again in the very same spot:

The preternaturally arranged freak fruits taunting me from their perch upon the Old Croton Aqueduct’s ancient ventilator tower:

But this time I decided to stop and show those fuckers who’s boss:

[Keeping those balls in the air.]

That’s called “focus:”

It may seem secluded, but about two seconds into the video you can hear someone in one of the nearby houses coughing up a lung.

By the way, that’s a merino sweater from Rivendell, it’s stupidly comfortable, and once the weather gets cool I wear it on and off the bike pretty much all the time:

[Photo: Rivendell]

And wanna hear something really weird?

Before I put it on I didn’t even know how to juggle!

I could totally see Rivendell selling juggling bean bags though. Seems like the sort of old-timey analog entertainment you’d want to keep in your voluminous saddle bag.

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