I finally concluded that all failure was from a wobbling will rather than a wobbling wheel. I felt that indeed the will is the wheel of the mind — its perpetual motion having been learned when the morning stars sang together. When the wheel of the mind went well then the rubber wheel hummed merrily; but specters of the mind there are as well as of the wheel. In the aggregate of perception concerning which we have reflected and from which we have deduced our generalizations upon the world without, within, above, there are so many ghastly and fantastical images that they must obtrude themselves at certain intervals like filmy bits of glass in the turn of the kaleidoscope. Probably every accident of which I had heard or read in my half-century tinged the uncertainty that by the correlation of forces passed over into the tremor that I felt when we began to round the terminus bend of the broad Priory walk. And who shall say by what original energy the mind forced itself at once from the contemplation of disaster and thrust into the very movement of the foot on the pedal a concept of vigor, safety, and success? I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning-wheel we must all learn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life — it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed. And so I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed.
I feel the truth of Willard’s point that the mind is at least as important as the body when it comes to riding; where I’m limited as a rider, it comes from mental weakness — laziness and fear, in particular. I could work harder and ride more if had more mental drive, and I am limited by my fear of riding fast, particularly in a large, tightly-packed group, and especially around corners. At times I’m haunted by the “ghastly and fantastical images” Willard describes — images of terrible crashes and collisions with cars and severe injuries. This fear probably only hurts me rather than helps keep me safe — I’m not at all likely to be reckless and so don’t need fear to hold me back, and timidity, at least when riding in a group, can get one into trouble.
And yet, on a more positive note, her point that what “made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life” is a wonderful one, and true for me as well; where I’ve had success, it’s come from endurance, doggedness, and showing up regularly, qualities one needs to learn how to ride well. One also needs patience, determination, and the help of a few good friends. It hasn’t been about talent (I have no idea what amount of innate talent I have for cycling or athletics generally — I was a reasonable long-distance runner in High School, but nothing stellar), but about making the best use of whatever ability I’ve got. So I, along with Willard, feel that I can “commend [the bicycle] as a teacher without pulpit or creed.”