A RIDE OF LOSS, LOVE, AND LONGING AMONG THE MOUNTAIN ASH

Cycling writer Peter Foot takes us along for a stirring ride as he ventures onto quiet tracks and dirt roads in the Dandenongs Ranges, east of Melbourne, Australia. As you’ll read, this wasn’t your average bike ride – it was an opportunity to step back and take a look at a world gone mad, and to feel grateful for the things that mean most.

The dappled shade makes it hard to see rocks from a distance. The track angles down and I pick up speed. I feel the breeze on my neck, hear the whir of the freehub. 

A couple of fast sweepers. I look ahead to discern a line, then glance down to check for rocks, then back at the line. There is the bike, and my connection to it, and the trail, and the loamy smell of the forest. I position my hips so that the tyres bite and drift just a touch and the whole bike feels primed like a bow that snaps back and shoots me through the exit. Yes. There it is. 

There is something depthless about it, this kinetic experience. When you’re overbalancing, when one foot stands in chaos, it brings you back. I need that now. I’m wound up like a thousand-day clock, to borrow the words of former Australian prime minister Paul Keating. It’s been a strange year. 

And I’m tired. So tired. Without making a conscious decision I stop pedalling. The freehub winds down then clicks to a halt, and I choose a more-or-less random spot by the side of the track and lie down. I take my helmet off and let my head rest on the soil and I close my eyes.