Photo courtesy of Team Sky
We live in a modern world where death, destruction and doom permeate every line of communication, from print and radio to television and the Internet. I’ve chosen to tune most of it out by no longer reading newspapers, not watching television and not listening to the radio. I just don’t give a shit anymore about religious wars, planes being shot down and mass school shootings. It only has a negative effect on my life, so I no longer give it any cranial bandwidth. Life is too short to be wasted on the ugly side of humanity.
I still have the Internet though, and the recent news of Robin Williams’ death really made me stop in my tracks and think for a spell about the bigger picture. Here was a guy that many consider to be one of the funniest comedians in history, a man that made everyone’s life better by prescribing the ultimate antidote to depression and anger – laughter. It’s a travesty that he was immune to his own prescription.
Next to laughter, for me, the only thing more therapeutic is riding a mountain bike. Robin was an avid cyclist, which made me even more confused about his passing. How could a guy who loved to ride his bike so much, make so many people laugh and give hope to those with absolutely none, end his own life in such a tragically sad way?
Clearly his demons ran deep, and it seems that often times the most talented artists in society—the ones who truly stand out as all-time greats—are the ones with the most ravaging inner demons that bring them to an untimely demise.
After hearing of Robin’s death, while in the midst of a gloriously beautiful five-hour mountain bike ride, my mind was racing, thinking of life, nature and my time here on planet Earth. Big rides like these are the times when I have unclouded vision, where thoughts and ideas come almost as rapidly as the pain from my legs and lungs.
In a society where people are popping multiple prescription pills for a variety of entirely preventable illnesses, riding a mountain bike is my medication. It is my medication against depression, sadness, anxiety, jealously, obesity, needless consumption, poor health, and yes, even anger. I might start out a ride on my singlespeed angry, but by the time I get home, the fury inside has been released and I am at peace. And I try to take my medication at least five times every single week in varying doses.
There have been times when I contemplated why I’m even here in this world. A couple years ago when I was going through a rather rough patch in life, I watched Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, which really put things into perspective. Think you’re insignificant as a human now? Just watch Cosmos and you’ll get a new appreciation for insignificance.
But it’s not insignificance in a depressive, why-bother-living sort of way, it’s insignificance in a strangely inspiring and empowering “nothing really matters” sort of way. So why not just go out into the world, enjoy yourself and do whatever the hell you please? We’re here on this planet such a short time as it is. Why make it shorter?
I would be lying if I said I never thought about yanking that steering wheel straight into the path of an oncoming 18-wheeler, not because my life is bad, but well, just because. What would happen? What would it feel like? Would I survive? Would I accidentally kill anyone else in the process? Then the 18-wheeler passes me in a gust of speed and energy, a chill goes down my spine and my daydreaming moves on to more productive topics. The mind can be a complex and twisted organism sometimes.
But when I get on my mountain bike, pedal away from society into the middle of nowhere and experience the power of nature in all its grandeur, beauty and even harsh indifference to my existence, everything is right in the world. Nothing else at that moment exists beyond the bike, the self and the environment surrounding both. I pedal. I eat. I sleep. Then I do it again. I am an animal in balance with itself, its machine and its surroundings. Everything else in those moments is insignificant. Those are the moments I live for. That is the reason why I want to live.
I only wish that Robin could have drawn the same therapeutic, cleansing power of the bike to keep his inner demons at bay. Thankfully his legacy will live on forever, bringing smiles and laughter to millions of people around the world for generations to come. Godspeed Robin. You were one of the best.
Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at firstname.lastname@example.org. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.