The bike that gives back

I’m mashing the pedals on my blacked-out track bike, climbing up the hill in the center of campus on my way to class. The sun torches my neck, and sweat begins to form under my T-shirt, sticking the thin cotton to my back. It’s not the best part of my daily ride, but it’s worth it.

As I crest the hill, I find myself at the familiar intersection of Spring and Oak. This junction is the reason I ride this way. The stop sign here means I get to practice my track stand.

One speed, no coasting, no brakes.

I begin to count the pedal cranks left before I reach the crosswalk.

Five, four, three… I slow my legs. Two, one…

I lean back on my left pedal and push down on my right, engaging the fixed rear cog in either direction. This battle for balance results in a stationary position atop the steep descent ahead of me. I’m performing a track stand.

The feeling of locking into a stock still track stand is unlike anything else. The control and balance it requires brings out more focus than any homework assignment ever could. It gives me something to look forward to every morning and every evening as I commute to class and back home. My favorite place at Miami is wherever I’m riding my bike that day.

***

The track stand was developed for fixed gear bike racing in the velodrome, an Olympic sport that has since migrated to the streets. Fixed gear bikes allow the rider to transmit all energy into rotating, or slowing, the rear wheel of the bike. The front gear is connected directly to the rear cog by the bike chain. One speed, no coasting, no brakes.

***

My eyes dart from car to car, waiting for one to jump out at me. My legs bounce rhythmically up and down, modulating my speed. My hands clench the bars until I can feel the rubber grips digging into my palms.

I ride this reasonably dangerous contraption because it offers a break from the monotony of everyday life. Whether it’s a fight with my girlfriend or the paper I still haven’t started writing, none of it matters when I’m flying down a hill on the edge of control. Riding this bike takes a lot out of me, but it gives a lot back too.