Some rides are a struggle. Nothing seems to go right, everything is out to either kill you or make you question your choice of leaving the house in the first place. We've all had those days and let's face it, it's gonna happen, the law of averages dictates so.
Not being able to clip into the pedals, pinch flatting 100 yards into a trail ride, forgetting something (water bottle, gloves, etc.) can be the first signs of a prospectively awesome ride gone rogue. Knowing that the deck is stacked against you, what are you left to do? You can either call it a day or you push on. Quite often, choosing the latter results in a constant battle of trying to regain some form of synchronicity between you, the bike and the environment– with varying consequences. These rides generally make for good stories after the fact, but when it's happening, it suuucks.
However, there's the flip side to everything and a reason why one muddles through those situations. The driving force behind it being the quest for that legendary epic ride and the pursuit of the elusive zone (that moment when you realize that everything is in tune and working in complete harmony). Breathing and pedaling are reduced to a subconscious level of non-thought. Action becomes a simple matter of imposing will. Engaging the flow offers an energetic sense of euphoria mixed with an air of invincibility where obstacles become sought out opportunities to push oneself even further, with little concern of consequence on account of the feeling of total self-control. With the mind/body unchained of conscious laborious tasks, senses swirl and key in on whatever stirs them in passing; the bloop of a fish jumping for its breakfast, the earthy aroma of first fallen leaves or the chess-like prognostication of traffic patterns on a busy street. The rider has become one with the environment.
I've found few things that can compare to this experience. As cyclists, those are the moments that we all look and hope for when we set out on our journeys. For once the zone has been experienced, forever will it be chased.