Sometimes when I commute home, I imagine I’m in a race. The rolling hills are opportunities to attack, accelerate, and feel the burn in my legs. Cresting the top of the hills offers no respite as I push to maintain speed on the descent. Attack … recover, then attack again.
At high speeds (even in my own mind), danger is always present. Occasionally, I am surprised by squirrels playing the “suicide dash” when they wait for just for the right moment to run in front of your racing bike. For some reason, the suicide dash is not uncommon, as counter-Darwinian as it seems. While I’ve never hit one, my closest call was with one daredevil squirrel shooting under the frame of my bike, between my two tires. The other day, the Los Angeles Times reported just how dangerous riding can be.
But squirrel are always sneak attacks. Today, I hit a pine cone — and pine cones don’t move. At high speed, somehow my skinny tires locate the prickly brown object, a 3 inch obstacle sitting in the middle of a 96 inch wide dedicated bike path, with no other bikes in sight.
Coming down the path, I see the pine cone and plan to avoid it. But instead, I cringe at the sick crackling crunch, and hear the cone shoot off the road at great velocity. In the following moment of the heart stopping wobble, I stop pedaling, sit up, and regain control. It was close … I could have crashed. My imaginary race is over, and I slow to assess the damage. Prickly pine cones are not friendly to tires. Once I confirm that my tires are unpunctured, I continue at a reasonable pace.
Squirrels are one thing. They are unpredictable obstacles — as moving projectiles, you can’t plan for them.
But, the pine cone is completely different. It is stationary and covers just 3% of the path. Even at slow speeds, that’s a 3 in 100 opportunity to hit the obstacle. And what’s worse, I saw it.
There’s a fundamental truth in bike riding. Your bike goes where you eyes go. Try riding your bike with your eyes fixed on the beautiful views to the side of the road, and you will quickly find yourself part of the vista (really, don’t try this). Stare at a pine cone and your 23 mm tires will hit it.
Perhaps this is why the author of Hebrews tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2) when avoiding sin. Our body and mind go toward the thing we focus on. To miss the pine cone, I need to turn my eyes to where I want to go, not fix on what to avoid.