The Red Menace


My legs are pumping hard and my wheels fly down the pavement. The good news comes over the ear buds, interrupting the scream of the industrial music setting today’s pace, in its halting, faux feminine voice to let me know that, after fifteen minutes of riding, I am still coming in under five minutes per mile. This didn’t start off being about speed, it’s supposed to be simply about getting to work, but now I am chasing that endorphin high and the elation I know I’ll feel when the app tells me I achieved a new personal record.

I push faster at the new motivation and make a sharp corner. Pounding the pedals I spot the enemy and, glancing over my shoulder I drift into the turn lane. A quick burst of speed as I cut through the parking lot of the thrift store and come back out on the cross street. This isn’t the first time today I’ve had to get creative to keep up the momentum. The enemy seems to be plauging me at every turn today pushing forward through the side streets of the neighborhoods I make my way back to my appointed course, dropping back out onto a major traffic artery. I round another corner, slip into the bike lane and immediately have to start squeezing the brakes. “Crap.” I think to myself as I come to a halt. The enemy has me, I managed to avoid it the whole ride but now I have no choice. I am stuck at a traffic light.

I sit there idle, inhaling the exhaust from the surrounding cars, mentally hearing the timer of my tracking app tick away the seconds. My foot rocks the pedal back and forth anxiously as I wait. The cross traffic finishes and now I have to wait an eternity for the left turn signal to cycle through. It’s agonizing to watch that light as I feel my averages slipping through my grasp.

Finally, the turn signal changes to amber and I crank the right pedal backwards placing it in the top of it’s arc. The light shines green,I push down hard on my right foot and kick off the pavement with my left. My left foot finds it seat on the cranks and I am moving again, free of the grip of the traffic signal. I slide over on the road and shoot left down an alley into the backstreets of midtown away from anymore lights. I snake my way around the old neighborhood to finish my commute.

I arrive at the alley behind my job and click off the timer. The now familiar, almost comfortingly awkward machine voice announces, “Aver, age, pace, four, minutes, fifty, two, seconds, per, mile.” Satisfied, I dismount and grab my canteen. A new record and more than a full minute under my goal.

I am definitely verging on obsession.

Image cropped from Red Bike by John Bell CC-BY-2.0

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