Cycling Stories

Over the Peak

May 28, 2020


Over the Peak

“The desire to live actively compels me not just to bike further, but to experience new cultures, meet new people, and familiarize myself with as much of this world as I can.”

Dylan Isley

“Only a kilometer or two left,” I think to myself, trying to focus on something other than the burning sensation in every muscle from lactic acid buildup.  

Looking up at the George Washington Bridge, I finally feel closer to my finish line – something I haven’t felt in hours. The prospect of finishing provides me with a second—or third—wind, until the menacing Fort George Hill climb comes into sight. From the vantage point of my mental and physical state, 200 kilometers into a bike ride against the setting sun, it appears nearly Himalayan. Impossible. 
At 6:00 AM, before the sun rises to greet the thick morning fog that blankets Pleasant Valley’s lush summer hills, I rise. Breakfast awaits downstairs, with a caloric content I carefully calculated based on watts, MET values, and other metrics on my bike, all the way down to tire pressure. After being sated by the meal, I throw on my backpack filled with rations for the day, lace up my lucky skate shoes, and head outside to complete some last-minute flight checks on the bike. I had never biked so far from my rural, northwest Philadelphia home, but I had a desire to make the day somehow bigger than an ordinary Sunday. I was prepared to accomplish something remarkable. 
Feeling the cadence of pedaling through the countryside is inexpressible. Just enough time and effort are allotted to attach a sense of significance and familiarity to the terrain as I pass through. In pursuit of this connection, I ride centuries to feel like I am playing an active role in experiencing the world around me. The desire to live actively compels me not just to bike further, but 
If the last 10 miles are harder than the first 110, then the last mile is harder than the first 119. Newark passes quickly as I monitor my progress, with the familiar Manhattan skyline just across the river. Save for my bike nearly stolen out from under me, the most heavily trafficked part of my ride goes off without a hitch.  

At long last, the almost vertical Fort George Hill climb appears before me. I remind myself that no matter how far I’ve ridden, or how far I’ve passed my breaking point, I can always give another mile, another minute.  

I fight for every inch of the unforgiving climb, legs and lungs burning. If the destination is Manhattan, then simply put, I will arrive. I think only of my immediate goal to push me over the peak. Whether the task is mental, physical, academic, or athletic, I meet my goals because I will stop at nothing to realize them.  

Rolling across the bridge, I look back, humbled, but brimming with pride. My next adventure already begins to materialize. 

Dylan Isley is from Doylestown, PA and is a member of University of Pittsburgh's class of 2024, where he studies finance and economics. He is an avid amateur cyclist and professional rickshaw driver with a love for gears and chains. 

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