Biking is a huge source of exercise. In fact, I find that just going out for a walk or bike ride clears my head for future writing. But today I discovered a new source of joy. I found a new hill to roll down.
Remember, that time you would find the steepest driveway on the block. You’d walk your bike, skateboard or roller skates and roll down again and again. It was a rush. That few seconds of absolute danger and thrill made you want to walk up again and again. And again.
Today I found the ultimate hill. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have been exploring the new bike trails available all around the bay. Enter the new Oakland Bay Bridge span bike trail. It has a very light climb, and is better than any stairmaster or work out at the gym. There is an amazing view as you pedal up a steady uphill 5% grade. You ride a brand new 21st century bridge while looking at the old 20th century bridge under destruction. Piece by piece of a symbol of the last century is being torn down beside you. Not to mention the constant breeze, every biker’s dream.
But why does a person ride up a hill? The bridge is perfect with it’s view, but it is still difficult. I had to stop at a few view points for a break, drink of water, and take in the fresh air from the bay drifting beneath me. I knew going down the bridge would be amazing. What I didn’t count on would be the speed.
I got to the top, took my picture moment, and turned around to head down. Using my breaks, I started to roll. There is a speed limit of 15 mph. So, I would use my breaks and keep a safe pace. But there were breaks between pedestrians, and traffic had fallen down quite a bit since it was later in the day. I started to remember why I use to climb up hills. It was for the thrill of rolling down. How fast could I go?
I started to lean down, building a little speed. A little less breaking and I could feel the rush of speed beneath my wheels. I flashed back to that moment I’d roll effortlessly down my neighbors drive; the smile easing across my face. At this moment, two men passed me on the left, pedaling to race and gain speed. I could see the boys surfacing within the men as they rode ahead. Then, another man, with a similar grin spread across his face, raced past me. I knew what they were feeling, because my face had the same frozen grin of triumph. I felt that rush as you wheel down a hill, with no effort. This ease turning from a few seconds into a few minutes on the ultimate hill.
I knew at that instant why I rode uphill. It was to go down, fast. But I still use the breaks. We all go down the hill cautiously. It makes good sense. But when you’re doing something wicked or dangerous, it puts the thrill back into living. I don’t want to hurt anyone with the fun, just enjoy it, with a big smile on my face. And if others are enjoying it with me, let’s enjoy it together. You only live once. Whether it’s cautiously or a moment of reckless abandonment, just get out and climb up a hill. The rush coming down will get you to try it again. Or maybe climb up another hill.