Scared to ride. Superheroes and superpowers within cycling.

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When I was a kid, I didn't much care for superheros. Sure, I had a Hulk lunchbox, but that was the extent of my interaction with superheros. I can't say that my general disinterest in superheros was strictly because of the fact that I grew up in Colombia, since other kids around me seemed at least somewhat interested in Superman and his co-workers. I do remember, however, that as many of us got older, we would often comment on how ridiculous the notion of a superhero was. Sure, Batman could deal with a villain like the Joker, but could any superhero take on the drug lords that were killing cops, bombing shopping centers, and assassinating judges in Colombia? Unlikely.



Speaking of superheros, reader Adam informed about the fact Laurent Fignon and Martina Navratilova might be the same person. Much in the same way that no one ever saw Superman and Clark Kent in the same place at the same time, no one has ever seen these two in the same place at the same time. Don't say I didn't warn you.



I've written about my interest in having superpowers within the context of cycling before (here), but the way that the concept of superheroes and their superpowers most often comes up in my life is at work. Why? Because I have a co-worker who is fond of asking the following question:


Which superpower would you rather have: the ability to fly, or the ability to be invisible?

The question, although seemingly innocent, is a pointed one. As it turns out, if you answer that you'd rather be invisible, it's because you're a pervert, a thief, or a perverted thief who likes to steal underpants. If you choose flight, there's something equally wrong with you...like the desire to escape your troubles and an inability to deal with your current situation, or something like that. Personally, I was always fascinated with the superheros who were able to take on the characteristics of someone else, or something else. Lucky me, this is exactly the kind of superpowers I ended up with. But they are not the ones I want.


My unwanted superpower
One of the many reasons why cyclists are often bothered by non-cyclists is that they will very often want to talk about either Lance Armstrong, or about how unsafe and crazy riding a bike is. Oddly enough, these are the two things that many cyclists (even experienced ones) talk to each other about. Perhaps it's for this reason that I largely avoid both topics like they're herpes. That's particularly true when it comes to the subject of safety. I'm well aware of the issues faced by cyclists, and while I'm not overly superstitious, I'd rather avoid the topic if I can. Why? Because merely discussing it sours my mood. I don't want to hear about the person who was killed recently, I don't want to know about this intersection or how unsafe it is. Yes, I'm willing to learn, and if you have some tidbit that I should know about, by all means..share. But aside from that, please shut up about it. Why? Because my superpower makes it difficult for me to take. You see, my superpower is the ability to take other people's injuries, tragedies and crashes and make them my own. I unknowingly internalize their pain, and lack the ability to differentiate between their sadness and mine. I'm sure any certified psychiatrist would point out that this is my self-centered way of being, and that I somehow make everything about me. Be that as it may, I'm here to talk about my superpower, not about my character flaws...so allow me to move on.


Look, I struggle with my own mortality, and often get saddened by the fact that I'm merely a bag that holds in my organs. I'm a fragile container filled with liquids and goo that I'm desperately trying to keep inside of me. It's with this in mind that I must tell you about the fact that I've been ridding less than normal recently. My mind, for whatever reason, has put the brakes on my ability to ride on many days days, and it all stems from my fear of crashing, being hit, dying or whatever else may happen. I know that many of you can tell me that I'm irrational for these thoughts, or that you've crashed a billion times and you're awesome because you ride. You'll tell me that it's about how careful you are. You can tell me about your friend's crash, or about how you have a bionic leg and you still ride. If that's the case, good for you. Your ability to process information and come up with a better (and perhaps more rational) answer than me doesn't make you better, just different. Okay, maybe it does make you better...but there's not much I can do about it, since this is the way my brains appears to be working right now. I won't stop riding, clearly. But for right now, this is where I find myself, a tiny bit gun-shy. I can't help it, but I'm trying to get over it. There's no single event that brought this on, but perhaps a series of deaths that came about recently. As a result (to put it quite simply) I'm scared sometimes, and I have trouble shaking that feeling. I'm hyper sensitive to the squirrely nature of some riders, I'm superbly aware of the terrible streets I have to ride through, and I now seem to make a mental note of every cyclist that has been killed near my house, and the exact place where the accident happened. While I can't claim to be the wisest, most aged rider in the world (by any stretch of the imagination), I've ridden a bit, including places like New York, London and the like. I'm not terribly afraid of traffic by any means...but for some reason, my mind seems to be doing a double take right now. As for the people who were killed near me, or whose deaths I've picked up on in the media....no, they weren't careless. It wasn't their fault. They were doing what I do, in the same way that I do it, and while wearing more reflective gear than the entire commuting section at REI ...and it still happened. I internalize the accidents, and they sour my mood. My mind blocks up. I take in their pain. Finally, I freeze.

Yes, I'm still riding, but the amount of time spent on my bike has been lessened. Perhaps at some point my brain will get unstuck, and I'll be able to move on. For now, however, I'm afraid that this is the condition I currently find myself in. The same brain that makes me want to ride, makes me scared to ride at times, perhaps as some sort of self-preservation tactic. Like those sleepless nights where your brain gets stuck on a loop, and you're unable to sleep due to the restless activity going on in your head, my mind is now stuck on this loop. And what a horrible loop it is. It's filled with anxiety and fear, and endless facts, and the faces of those who have passed away recently doing something they loved. Perhaps I'll be able to get out of this mode of thinking soon...but for now, this is my condition, and this is my superpower. Luckily, I already own the tight-fighting outfits that are needed for all superhero duties. Who knows, maybe something good will come as a result of this whole thing. We'll see.