On tiny transcendental moments

Finding the joy, metre by metre.

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 01.05.2024 Photography by
Gruber Images
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I haven’t been riding much lately. We can list out the excuses, if we must – the sickness, the travel, the dwindling daylight and growing chill to the air – but, really, it boils down to this: at some point riding was a main priority in my day, and lately it’s slipped from that. In the past I’d have beaten myself up over this. Now I’m … not zen, exactly, but a bit more accepting of the turning of life’s season. Part of the reason why is because I’m leaving breadcrumbs through the forest to find my way back. 

One of those is tweaking equipment to better suit this new reality. What will build into a basket bike arrived in the post yesterday – a vintage Cannondale Beast of the East, 30 years old but good for its age, adorned with the clunky finest in cantilever technology and thick tubing TIG-welded together in Pennsylvania by someone called Buck or Chuck. It has platform pedals and weird geometry, but seems like the kind of bike that I need at this point in time – something to reconnect to the joy that cycling is, going nowhere particularly fast for the sheer time-spinning pleasure of it. 

The other thing is that I’m making a conscious effort to find the specific moments that spark that joy. I think, historically, these have often been tied to my own fitness – setting PRs on climbs and descents; riding fast with friends; the feeling of bike and body merging into one living, breathing entity of flesh and (carbon) fibre. How do you reclaim that when you’re the slowest you’ve been in years? How do you find those moments when your rides are local and routine? 

What I’ve settled on is finding the endorphin rush not in the whole of a ride, but in specific parts of a route – a couple of hundred metres where surface or incline or cornering lets the moment sing. When I was fitter, that was a stretch of Brysons Road that dropped down to a bridge, with a fast right-left turn into a climb, my momentum pulling me up it on freshly resurfaced tarmac. It always made me feel like a fighter pilot, pushing similar buttons to that descent before the Diamantina on Mount Hotham, when I was fitter still. 

Today my ambitions are more modest: a turn I take a couple of times a day on the cargo trike school run, through an industrial estate past an old factory that looks like an aeroplane hanger but is now a badminton club. The surface shifts from rough bitumen into smooth concrete slabs, through a fast right and then a fast left. That whole sequence is maybe 100 metres, if that, but it’s enough to warrant the detour because it helps me reconnect with some grander purpose than the A to B of my riding: a handling test, the primal joy of self-propulsion, a moment that reliably parts the clouds. Every school day, twice a day, I have that little moment on the bike to look forward to. It’s not much, but dammit, it’s something.

I think you’ve probably got places like this too, if you think about it – a specific stretch of road that always makes you feel something, even on the most mundane ride, allowing you to access that joy again. So, thought experiment: what’s yours?   

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