The morning after I arrived, I got on my bike and took off without hesitation. After all, I knew this place well, I knew where I was going. But as I rode through the city it was as if my body was still tuned into one music station, while the streets played another. We were out of sync.
There is a frenzied, erratic, atonal feel to cycling here - or at least it strikes me that way after an absence.
There are skills and intuitions we develop through years of urban cycling. Quick reaction times. Keen peripheral vision. An instinct for evasive maneuvers. Anticipation of potential doorings, right hook turns and other rogue moves. The ability to "hover" and "creep" at intersections. We also grow desensitised to the scary fact of being, at all times, just inches away from a fleet of heavy moving vehicles that could easily squash us at any moment.
None of this has left me. I feel safe and comfortable riding in Boston. It's just that the rhythm of the city feels …foreign. And it insists upon itself, urging me to internalise it again.
My speed in the city is regulated by what the traffic patterns allow, more so than by my fitness level or by the kind of bike I ride. I had almost forgotten about this in rural Ireland, where changes in fitness translate into noticeable changes in speed, and where riding a faster bike cuts down on travel time considerably.
And maybe that is at the heart of what I'm struggling with here: Giving up control to the city and its fitful, fascinating rhythms.