WHY I RIDE: WAKING UP WITH MY CITY
The alarm pierces the darkness. I struggle to focus on the glowing phone screen and even though I know what time it is, I check it anyways. It’s four thirty. Just like every other morning, the first order of business is to turn on the espresso machine. Looking at the kit I laid out the night before, I do a quick check of the weather. No rain in the forecast until the afternoon. I choose the outfit on the left, thankful I won’t need the outfit on the right since it’s not raining. A quick espresso and I’m out the door into the chilly pre-dawn air. As I throw my leg over my bike, I second guess my glove choice for a second but before I can debate whether I should get my warmer gloves, I realize I’m already pedaling into the darkness.
In the distance, an army of early morning commuters ablaze with rear blinkies creates a dazzling effect against the urban landscape. Friendly waves, nods, and even a “morning” here and there from fellow cyclists (and runners) make me feel like I’m part of a special club. Or maybe we’re all just morning people. It doesn’t matter, I eat it up all the same.
The delicious smells from bakeries tease my empty stomach while the dim lights from within cast a soft spotlight onto the street, but they’re overpowered by the string of green traffic lights that stretch for blocks, urging me forward. As I freewheel along, the buildings that comprise my city's skyline seem to channel and amplify the sound of my Chris King hub as it makes its trademark “angry bee” sound.
As I leave the city’s groomed concrete lanes behind, a different type of quiet envelops me as I head into the suburbs. The sound of my new tires make a sticky sound as they roll over the pavement while my headlight cuts through the darkness, illuminating the road just enough to enable me to dodge potholes and cracks that have developed over the winter months and spring storms. I smile in defiance as I know they would like nothing more than to devour my wheel for breakfast.
The horizon is now aglow with rich pinks and purples as the sun announces it is awake too. Orange tones soon join the purple-pink splendor as the sun begins to peak over the Cascade Mountains. I stare, entranced by this beautiful sight. It never gets old.
As the sun takes its position overhead, light fills in shadows and my environment takes on a different shape, now full of space and dimension. The world is suddenly more alive with cars, people, and noise, as if a switch was violently thrown. My labored breathing adds to the symphony of sound while fatigued muscles and a hungry stomach plead with me to find a coffee shop for some respite. I yield and give into those delicious aromas I smelled hours earlier. As I sit in the front window of the cafe sipping a coffee, the warmth of the sun washes over me and I say quietly to myself, “I love this city.”
I've always enjoyed riding in the morning. I'm sure being a morning person plays a role, but there is something special about riding before or as the sun rises. For me, riding early has helped build a special connection with my city. The experience is so drastically different from riding through the city during the middle of the day or during the height of rush hour. And not only is the city's energy different, but my own energy is different.