Making Single-track

We are becoming single-track. Single-track is riding along desire, moving in a suspended line of dirt, rock, rubber, sinews, muscle, metal, and nerves. It is the possibilities of negotiation between things we think of as separate. Body. Bike. Trail. To make single-track is to fashion multiplicities.

Throw out a line. Let go and brake less. A thrill of terror enters the bloodstream. No time for logical reasoning, just motion as the rocky terrain passes faster than thought. We know this is working until it is not. Thrown.

Now we have new connections. Synapses that connect speed and nerves to fingertips gently squeezing the brake lever. Centers of gravity that account for slopes. Tires that skip off rocks of a certain size in direct relation to speed.

It takes awhile to learn how to use the sensory capabilities of the rubber pads. Sensations are crude, mostly limited to slipping at first, the times the dirt slips from beneath the rubbery nubs. Sometimes I can feel them dragging and sticking into the soft layer of pine needles. That means the tires need more air.

Everything crowds around me. Sight lines are short as movement and sight curves. In another configuration the trail is a raw sore cut open. Bleeding ruptures of tree stumps and broke branches, eroded soil and trampled grasses. Making single-track is an ongoing business that requires ongoing injury. Kill the life underfoot and alongside to keep the wound open and rideable.

A tight turn ahead, switchback. If I switch back to my body negotiating this bike around this trail turn, I stop riding. I stutter to a stop as my eyes track my fears. The brambles lining the trail that my front wheel stubbornly follows so long as my eyes see what is not the single-track. To make the switchback means not switching back. Look forward and lean, steady on the nerve-brakes. They are sensitive to even a millimeter too much in either direction. It really is a measurable thing, making this switchback. I know the formula, but the middle is the messy part. Moving outside the moment is disaster, or at the very least a minor inconvenience.

Making single-track is hard to sustain. I get scared at the flows, the loss of the me that I have grown so accustomed, and cannot sustain the line of flight. Nor can the multiplicity remain quite yet. I worry that I will get drunk on the flow and move beyond current possibilities into the impossible, the making of injury.

Riding single-track relies on making memory. Short term memory happens in the moment of making the ride. It relies upon those tendrils of long term memory extending from nerves down the metal frame into rubber nubs and flinging out to rocks and roots and soil. Memories are in the making but they don’t stay there.

It’s like riding a bike. You never forget. What they don’t tell you is that the forgetting is in the not-making. Remembering requires making riding, another multiplicity that’s more than just a memory in a body. Two wheels and a sense of surface make riding a bike a memory of relations. So we store ourselves in the middle, in making multiplicities that are always one less than the sum of the parts.

The above is a reaction to reading the Introduction to Deleuze & Guattari’s Introduction in A Thousand Plateaus.


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