The unspoken bond between human beings can be an amazing thing and just in from my ride I feel compelled to write about it:
Today it rained for almost every minute I rode. I had no reason to be angry, to be especially motivated over any other day, but for some reason I was stamping on the pedals. Racing myself and relishing the pain, I was storming. For whatever reason today the pedals just turned. It didn't matter it was raining and windy, actually I think I enjoyed my ride all the more so because it was. In my solitude, flying through the wet lanes, I was and still am, a few hours later, happy and warm.
As I rode out down Lea Bridge Road earlier today, my daily path out into the countryside of Essex, I came up behind a funeral procession. Making its way slowly down the road, the grit and heavy rain of the 'summers day' made the scene through east London seem all the more bleak. I stayed behind the cars, not wanting to intrude into what I imagine must be an intimate and sorrow-filled moment. A few miles later they turned off and I continued on with my training, settling into a rhythm I hadn't found in a while, turning the pain on with ease, relishing the rain on my face.
As I crested up over the hill into High Beech, Epping Forest, the emptiness of the small clearing in the forest struck me. The usual revelers put off by mud and grime, it was empty. As I turned a corner back into forest lined lanes, my eyes caught someone on the side of the road. He was hunched over, a huge camoflauge backpack weighing down on his back, legs muddy and his face weary. We locked in for a second and shared a road-side smile. He gave me a wink of support and I nodded. It doesn't seem like much, and really it wasn't but I felt the warmth of his respect and as I careered on down the lane, I almost wanted to turn around and go and wish him well on his adventures too. Both consumed in our own personal battles, solo in the forest, a random unexpected connection had me smiling into the next few miles of my ride.
Two hours later as I came up to the traffic lights by Hackney Marshes, my ride all but done, I saw the same three black cars from earlier on, this time minus their departed loved one. I pulled away and lowered my head as they passed not wanting to join the intrusive eyes all around staring in on their grief. As the last car pulled past I looked up, rain still stinging my face and my feet now soaked through. An old man in the last car turned toward me. He gave a nod and smile, our eyes locked through the rain and chaos of the traffic. It was a deep smile. And whilst I have no way of saying his exact intentions, again I felt respect and recognition in his gaze. I would like to think he saw someone doing what they loved, regardless of any circumstances, and found some kind of happiness in that.
So often I get home and want to write something awful about a car driver, an experience of being a cyclist out on the roads, but I don't find it constructive, its not a part of the story I enjoy or want to share. Today I was reminded, as I am every single day, amongst all the shit experiences, how amazing it is to see the world from the saddle. It may have felt a little more vivid than usual, the weather and a little pain bringing that out from beneath the surface of a random human connection, yet the camaraderie and respect I felt from two short moments I shared reminded me that we are all connected in someway or another. Battles, whether on foot, wheel or emotionally, can be shared with anyone.
I love riding my bike. Anyone who has ever felt freedom, pain or indeed love itself should be able to relate to that. Any experience I share with someone is special in some way but on two wheels life seems to pass, quite literally, all that bit better.