Life is fleeting. I know, that’s a well-worn cliché, but hear me out. I was riding my road bike the other day and I almost died, which isn’t really that unusual. I’d estimate that I almost die on 10% of my road rides. Sometimes it’s because of suicidal squirrels that throw themselves beneath my front tire, but mostly it’s because of crazy/distracted/aggressive drivers. Road cycling is dangerous and I try to mitigate that danger by riding low-traffic roads in areas where the drivers are used to seeing cyclists on the road.
So, there I am, riding one of those low traffic roads close to town, enjoying a mild downhill without the burden of cars when I have to slam on my brakes because some dude walks out of the woods on the side of the road with a freaking 40-foot ladder. The guy came out of nowhere and I almost went headfirst through the top of his ladder.
The incident had me thinking that maybe there is no way to mitigate the danger of road cycling. That maybe I should give up the endeavor all together and just start taking spin classes. This is what I’m thinking about later on that same ride when I see a man in his pajamas getting his mail. He has a very peaceful look on his face as he approaches his mailbox, like he’s retired and this is the only obligation he has to fulfill on this particular day, and I see him jump, like he was startled by something. As I ride past him, I see what startled the guy: a very large bear is sitting in the brush right next to his mailbox. Maybe four feet from that retired guy. And that big bear’s cubs were only a few feet beyond that, scrambling around a fallen tree.
Now, I don’t think that the guy was in any direct danger from that bear—black bears don’t typically make a habit out of mauling people–but a heart attack? That was a legitimate outcome from that particular scenario. I can see the headline now: Retired Guy Dies While Getting Mail.
Thankfully, the dude didn’t have a heart attack. He slowly backed away from the bear and went back into his house to enjoy the rest of his day. But again, the incident had me thinking: road cycling isn’t dangerous. Life is dangerous. You can kick the bucket at any time, anywhere. Slip in the shower. Have a heart attack while getting your mail. Contract a flesh-eating virus at the water park. Have a seizure while watching Fox News and fall down and hit your head on the kitchen counter…there are so many random ways to die, there’s probably no logic in trying to avoid it. Like, I have a brother who won’t surf because he’s scared of sharks. But he smokes and eats fast food and has already had to have a stint put into one of his arteries, so it’s probably not going to be a shark that gets him, you know?
Anyway, the two incidents on that particular ride (the ladder surprise and the bear surprise) only reinforced the notion that I actually should be riding my bike. To quote the great Ferris Beuller, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
If I’m going to die (and I reluctantly accept that I will die at some point), I might as well pedal my bike while I can.