How Numb Hands Nearly Ended My Cycling Lifestyle
In the summer of 2022 my teenage son and I cycled from Brooklyn to Montreal.
It was a sort of a capstone project. For almost a decade, we’d been going on rides of increasingly epic lengths. When he was eight, we did a 14-mile trip; the next year, 28 miles. We kept on bumping it up and up until he was a freshman in high school and we did our first “century”, 100 miles in a day.
By that summer of 2022, we dared ourselves to go further, longer, and more intensely than ever. So we picked Montreal as an ambitious destination — it’s about 450 miles from our house in Brooklyn. We plotted a route where we’d go 100 miles a day for four days in a row, then top it off with a 50-mile day, which would feel like a wafer-thin mint by comparison to the previous days’ slogs.
It was fun! And pulling off these sweat-soaked feats of endurance — this was new territory for me. I’m a nerd from the 80s, a weary veteran of gym-class jock bullying that was sniggeringly endorsed by the chain-smoking coaches of the day. I came away from it loathing all athletics and everyone who brayed in the bleachers. From high-school onwards I’d not avoided not only watching any pro sports, but mostly managed to even avoid a single conversation about them.
But cycling? For some reason, cycling got its talons into my soul and swept me away. It broke through my carapace. As I wrote in an essay last year …
… once I started doing big multi-city trips, it was clear that I was no longer just cycling for mobility. I was evidently deriving some deep spiritual and emotional nourishment out of engaging in what is, quite obviously, a deeply athletic activity, and one that’s also clearly a sport. Somehow I’d become an athlete. [snip]
Long-distance cycling finally helped me figure out what motivated all these sporty folks, who I’d regarded for decades with such dank suspicion. I now understood them, a little. Specifically, I felt the pleasure of figuring out what my body — and what my willpower — was capable of.
By the summer of 2022 and that big ride, I’d actually become the sort of person who craves regular, intense exercise…