Serenity on the Stelvio

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If you were to check my Instagram today (@livesadventure), you’d see a sweet alpine road with the caption “stormy stelvio struggles today.” But this story is not about struggles, rather how quickly things can change.

I grammed the photo at the top, after a long day in the saddle, difficult clients and over 10000 feet of climbing. Pooped through and through, though a good day. As we suited up for the 13 mile descent (tons of warm layers), I was gratified for the fun to come. Such speed is a great way to end a hard ride. How great it was blew my mind.

Struggle and difficulty and glory are what come to mind in terms of the Passo del Stelvio, one of Europe’s highest paved roads and a grueling long climb from any direction. But today I realized I’ve never really considered the descent.

Because we waited for the rest of group, we didn’t head down until after 6pm. By then, the road was nearly empty. When cyclists own the road, all is good in the world, at least for a time. Whizzing down the open road, the wind obscures almost all sound except for the gentle buzz of the coasting bicycle.

The connection between man or woman and his or her bike is always strong. On flats, or up hill the bicycle is truly a human powered vehicle. You feel your own effort transfer from body to bike, and translate into movement. On a descent, the relationship is more subtle and delicate. By merely shifting your weight from side to the other, you can execute sweeping turns. Merely dropping one shoulder can put you on the proper place on the road. The only muscular movement truly required is the occasional squeeze of the brakes. You don’t wrestle with the bike going downhill, you control it with ease.

Amphitheater for perfection

Amphitheater for perfection

Without the sounds of motorcycles, panting cyclists, and honking cars, and with only gravity moving the bike, the stelvio is peaceful and joyous. Only the occasional waterfall adds to the harmony. A soft glow of the low sun illuminates the famous winding road, and illuminated mountain tops  peak out of the shrouding mist. The area is always beautiful, this evening it was accentuated by the sense of peace and propriety.

Theres more to cycling and adventure than the epic struggles and momentous achievements that follow them. For each peak bagged, road cycled, bit of backcountry explored their is the reflective moment that follows, that puts us in awe of what surrounds us and humbles our wins in the grand scheme of where we are. These moments are just as sweet, these moments are why there is always another journey.

What a descent

What a descent

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