Last week I rode into a swarm of bees. I realised I was going to ride into them a fraction of a second too late. The bees were coming out of a tree growing on the side of the road. As I rode into the bees, the bees rode into me. Each of these tiny collisions was a tiny shock, like being burnt by a very tiny, very hot hasselback potato. Then I was out the other side, unstung, but – it felt to me – now with tiny bee imprints all over my arms and legs.
Then, on Sunday, I accidentally rode into a cycling event. Miramar Peninsula from Shelly Bay to Scorching Bay had been closed off to cars, and the road was teeming with racing bikes, granny bikes, trikes, scooters, tandem bikes, BMXs. The sun was blasting out, bells were ringing, everyone was grinning. It was truly corny, like a scene from an insurance ad. It was the best event I’ve ridden into. I belonged in that mistake.
I haven’t ridden into a river or the sea, but a friend once told me about a woman he saw on his way to work. She had clearly ridden off the side of a bridge and into the harbour. A small crowd had gathered to watch as she and her bicycle were fished out by two policemen.
I’ve ridden into countless kerbs, road cones, potholes, and tunnels. Northerlies, southerlies, gales into which it was unwise to ride, and rainstorms. I’ve ridden into an opening car door, and I have lost control and ridden directly into a crop of trees. I’ve ridden (in a Go-Kart) into a barbed wire fence strung up with rabbit skins at the bottom of a rutted hill.
The thing about riding into things is (oh god, here it comes, the part where I have to try to pretend that all of this has wider relevance) that later, it feels so great to not be riding into anything in particular. Most of us are riding into something more often than we are not riding into anything. Riding into work. Into a party. Into an argument. Into your next birthday. Into town. Into darkness. Into the Year of the Horse. Into the sunset/the morning. Into history/the future.
I’ve been going for long rides recently, and most of the way I have a fair idea whenever I’m holding someone up or some driver or other is quietly cursing me. That’s just the way cycling in Wellington is, and I’ve given up thinking that it will change anytime soon. But there are a few stretches, such as between Island Bay and Lyall Bay, where you can break out into empty road, so for a few seconds you get to speed up and spread out on the road and it’s just you and the bay, and you can finally hear your own breath, its own roar of acceleration. I seem to travel at approximately 300 km/h before a car appears to right my perspective, and during that time I become dangerously happy. The happiness is too sharp, like being kicked in the shins. And it makes me feel invincible, all tough and leathery, which is strange because it’s been drummed into me that I should always be full of fear when on a bike. It also makes me ride a lot further than I’d planned. It’s one of the few times when I’m not actively riding into anything, other than wind (and the future, obviously).
You probably remember this excellent clip of New York cyclist Casey Neistat riding into things, but here it is again.