Reviewing The Ride

Looking back into The Ride by William Gisel…..

This book is not really broken down into chapters, so much as letters to a friend, describing his experiences over a few months of this life. I immediately identified with the author when he related the moments right after the initial invitation to join a 500 mile, 6 day bicycle tour through Alaska, from his college friend Ted. In sharing the details with his wife, her reaction was simple and straight. “Before I could roll out my standard rationalizations, she said casually, “You should do it.” (p. 13) That’s what Jennifer said to me – about the Across Indiana Habitat tour and just about every Saturday morning since then. There is something amazing about having an immediately supportive spouse, saying, casually, “You should do it!”

This book was a simple read. It was not all about the bike. It was mostly about personalities, friendships and giving it a go. I think if anything this book reminded me how far I’ve come as a cyclist, in simple terms. I’m not a racer, or a tourist. I am someone who’s found on the bike some real peace and some real fitness. I’ve lost weight, but that was never the purpose. I’ve gained strength but that was never the purpose either. For Gisel, it was adventure. “Conquering Alaska” perhaps, but more likely, the draw of crazy companionship and the challenge of something new. He wasn’t a cyclist before this, just a fairly fit business man. Sure, I think the AIDS fundraising aspect of this drew him in a bit, but by his own statements about the disease, it doesn’t appear that he’s an activist.

The moment I connected with the most was his chapter….And The Training Goes On. After describing the thrill of cycling’s climbing and descents, he spoke, “But the attraction for me went beyond. A long ride developed a rhythm and a solitude that was soothing in spite of the physical exertion…In cycling, you pedal perfect circles to make the scenery pass by in a smooth, continuous flow of pictures. In modern life, it is exceptionally rare to be alone, quiet, and yet focused for several hours in a row.” For me, this is the heart of cycling. Solitude. That’s why I hate the wind. It’s just one more noise in my world!

There is something very deeply soothing about the rotation of the feet in that never ending perfect circle that is more than tranquil. It’s like waves washing on the shore or grace that floods in every time you hear the chorus of your favorite spiritual song….it is constant, and it grabs your focus like little else can. It is physical exertion with purpose, and- it propels. I think there is something to be said about moving forward here, that we don’t often express. This motion reminds me that I can both sit still- and move forward! It is smooth, quiet and moving forward.

Overall, a nice read, especially for non-cyclists to understand what it might take to get to a big ride, and why one would want to go! Still not much Spirituality in this, but my next book promises much more….I’ve already been sucked in by the first couple of pages!

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