Balancing on Two Wheels

 

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Neil Gaiman

I’ve always been an indoor person and preferred books to any kind of outdoor activity. There’s a strange comfort in living in a world of imagination. Probably because, you can do everything that you’re scared of in the real world and don’t have to worry about the consequence of a bad decision. Bad decisions always seem to have good endings — if you’re reading the right kind of book. You can jump off an airplane and could care less of knowing how to stay alive without a parachute. Or, double up as a detective and meddle in messy business — you had no business of sticking your nose into. Or, even get killed and raised from the world we have absolutely no information about. And, don’t we all love the story of the underdog turning into a demigod? That’s why, books are a safe haven for anyone with a vivid imagination and let’s say — very little courage.

“How much I missed, simply because I was afraid of missing it.”
― Paulo Coelho

It wasn’t surprising that I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 14. I barely rode my sister’s bike for a year after learning. Since then, I often wondered if there was any point in the torture of trying to defeat gravity as a teenager. What was the point in trying to stop falling and pedalling as if your life depended on it? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just submit to the laws of nature? Didn’t we owe it to evolution to use our feet instead?

“No matter what happens, always Keep your childhood innocence. It’s the most important thing.”
― Federico Fellini

Well, 20 odd years later, in a strange twist of sorts; I’ve found myself in cycling wonderland with a partner who is opposed to anything ‘indoor’. With none of my cerebral, perfectly logical arguments matching his childlike glee of exploring the city — with the wind hitting your face; I reluctantly submitted to the outdoors. After a few trial runs last year and a brief interlude during winter — summer brought along a new season and reason to test our wheels. So, last Sunday, armed with our bikes and tent, we set out to marvel the sights along the Han River.

I’m a proponent of lazy Sunday mornings. And, I wondered: why had I agreed to start early on a Sunday morning? While I fought sleep and a strong resistance to peddle; on the opposite side, a steady stream of runners seemed to have no trouble in making the most of the empty streets of Seoul. Looking at them panting, for the first time, I was happy to cover more ground in lesser time.

The Han River splits Seoul into two halves. The cycling trail, running along the river, stretches over a total of length of 80 km — summing both sides. The trail takes you through isolated patches of green, towering bridges, and an opportunity to temporarily escape city life. With dedicated paths for walking and cycling; it’s perfect for someone like me who’s always worried about collisions. The cycling trail is largely a flat ride with a few stray patches of incline.

There should be nothing dangerous about cycling on a well maintained path. And, after camping for nearly 3 hours — after a 15 km ride; I felt strangely invincible. There was nothing to fear. At 3 pm, when the sun was shining brightly, we set out to the nearest subway station. Just as I started to enjoy the ride, a cyclist crashed on his way down a curve. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and resigned to flat ground. There onwards, the danger of  the downward curve was acting on my mind. I stopped cycling and resumed — out of sheer exhaustion of walking with the bike. Things seemed to get better and just before the turn to the station, I saw a zigzag curve ahead. I held my breath, as hard as I held my brakes, for a period that felt like eternity. There was a moment, I felt I was flying as I stormed downwards. Fortunately, gravity works fast, and I made it to the other side, without Basil colliding (from behind) into me or me crashing into another cyclist. We clocked 20 km (a new record for me) and despite a throbbing arm and knee; it was a new high for me.

28 responses to “Balancing on Two Wheels

  1. What an exhilarating way to explore a place Cheryl. I love cycling but haven’t rode in years now, sounds like you had quite an adventurer. How ironic that you found yourself with such a complete opposite to you?

    • You get me, Miriam! Life in Seoul is so opposite to what I thought of it would be! I would have never have thought I’d be able to do half the things I’ve done here. And I’m grateful to every opportunity I got to face my ‘fears’ — and I have so many of them. lol..

  2. I commend you for your courage in doing something that does not come “naturally”. I too only learnt to ride a bike when I was 12 and as a result never mastered the art very well. SoI get it!

    That trail looks amazing! So smooth and clean and safe. Nice that it tuns along the water, as well.

    Peta

    • Thanks, Peta! 🙂 Not always easy admitting your worse fears. The trail is fantastic and is perfect for views of the city. The water is the best part. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Good going . BTW Why do God choose to pair opposites? Indoor and outdoor. Active weekend with relaxed weekend. Either of them have to give in!
    May be that’s what keeps things sizzling between the pair…. 😀

    • LOl! I’m agnostic/athiest and Basil’s a liberal believer. I’m idealistic and he’s pragmatic. Could we be more opposite? I think, we also have a lot many things in common. Moreover,we approach the same outcome in two different perspectives. That’s what matters. It’s not always easy though! 🙂 Have a good week!

    • It’s my fourth or fifth such ride in Seoul. I’m so happy I could do this. I love our tent too! Reminds me of the one we hired in Iceland. 🙂

  4. I love your spirit of giving things a try even when they scare you. I rode my bike everywhere as a child and then didn’t ride one for many years as a young adult. When I finally got back on, well, you probably know the saying … it came right back to me. I wish I had that gorgeous path to ride on! Keep up the riding; I bet you’ll do the whole 80 km someday!

    • Seoul is the best pill for any fear. And I do have a lot many! 🙂 Basil’s covered about 40 Km of the trail in different directions. I’ve covered about 30 (different directions). 80 km is a really long strip and there are multiple routes. I’m never saying never. lol.

  5. Lol…don’t be fooled into thinking those separate trails keep you safe. Once Agri was peacefully riding on his way, and a gawking ajumma, who could barely ride her own bike, was so stunned by him, that she turned her bike and rode right into him – her hands following her eyes, which were staring at Agri. I haven’t laughed quite so hard in quite awhile. It’s bound to happen to you one day, especially now that you don’t have your scarf for cover. 😉

    • Haha! I couldn’t stop laughing imagining the whole situation! Not so funny on the track though. 😦 I’m more afraid of pro-cyclists overtaking and crisscrossing lanes. Scary stuff! Btw, we passed Jamsil (I thought of you)and rode all the way till Gwangnaru Station.
      I’m not so sure if I’m half as stunning as Agri. LOL! On the track, I get more stares from other foreigners. Thankfully, they can ride and gawk! I miss my scarf and jacket! No more hiding…:(

  6. Pingback: Danger: No Nukes 1982 | What's (in) the picture?·

  7. You sure are lucky to be living in a city with kilometres of road dedicated to cyclists. I love cycling but only when I’m on level ground or going downhill. Cycling uphill poses a bit of a challenge for me. Pant! Pant! Congrats on making the distance. What an achievement..and it sounds that you really enjoyed the experience after all!

    • Couldn’t agree more, Helen. Seoul is a fantastic city to live in. 🙂 It was a fun ride! Couldn’t say the same for my throbbing arm and knee though. Haha!

      • If you cycle a few more times, your body will get used to it and your legs will not hurt anymore. I just resumed going back to the gym after an absence of 2 years and it was really painful on the joints. Thankfully, the pain is no more and I am still dreaming about getting some semblance of a waistline at my age! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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