Friends. Sunshine. Sanity. Mud. Wheeee! A bike is so much more than a frame and some parts—it’s the key to a lifetime of pure, unadulterated joy.
Whether you’re zooming past gridlocked traffic, channeling your inner Eddy Merckx on a monster climb, or catching some air, there’s no question that bikes can make us happier. (Find tips on making the most out of every mile in our Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills.) We asked five writers to share how riding brings more joy into their lives.
When I picture my perfect trail, my mind always wanders to a certain ribbon of singletrack in Santa Cruz, California. It dips and swerves through the redwood forest at just the right mellow cant to let you maintain constant launching speed. Smooth kickers and side hips beckon you to send it around every turn, and are so exquisitely built it feels as if the locals who created them had only your maximum enjoyment at heart. My ideal ride, I guess, has many opportunities to leave the ground. I know there is neurochemistry behind why getting even the tiniest bit of air can make me go “whoo!” But I think it’s more than just dopamine playing its greatest hits on my brain.
Full disclosure: I don’t usually get huge air—it’s more often “sensible air” or even baby air. But whether I’m bunny-hopping a speed bump on my ’cross bike or going off a drop in the bike park, the process is the same. I love that moment of commitment—approaching the edge and acknowledging that when my tires leave the ground, there is some level of uncertainty in how they’ll land, then doing the counterintuitive anyway: putting in a couple of extra pedal strokesand charging it. It’s bold and so opposite from the increasingly careful way I approach other aspects of life as I grow up—planning my vacations further ahead of time, dutifully putting away more money for retirement.
Instead, in the air, I’m so free and light as to defy gravity. That’s why I daydream about that trail in Santa Cruz and why I keep seeking out rides like it. Because when I get off the bike, I go back to my life knowing this: Today, I left the security of the ground to see if I could touch the sky. For a fraction of a second, my bike enabled me to fly. —Gloria Liu