There are many thing I love about riding bikes. At first glance it is easy to note the positive physical change that comes from any athletic activity. If you were to talk with someone long enough, you would discover that there is an element of psychological conditioning that is present. People (myself included) begin to create a lifestyle around their bike(s) whether it is how we get from A to B, or how we will become faster and stronger for the upcoming year. After many years of pursuing an undefined love for things two-wheels, only few begin to discover a deeper, philosophical outlook on cycling. In this intimate understanding of discovering why we as a culture spend so much time and money on this craft, many lessons are learned that can rollover to other aspects of our lives that hold a lot of value. If you asked me to summarize what cycling is in one sentence much like the title implies, I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. I can share a few examples of philosophic explanations as to what cycling is exactly.
Cycling is near the top of my priorities list in life. Similar to that of a religious obsession. Much like any mature adult who holds things close to their own personal character and identity, I save the deep conversations for those who are willing to understand where I’m coming from with an impartial and open mind. Sure cycling may be the best thing in the world, but not everyone is willing to hear that. You could have all the correct information about the universe and feel obligated to spread your dogmatic doctrine to the world, but will have your message fall on deaf ears by those not willing to receive what you have to say. This is a crucial thing to understand at in doing so, we as people are able to strike a balance between our joys and sharing our joys with the right people. Cycling isn’t for everyone, and trying to explain the cyclist lifestyle isn’t for everyone either.
I bring this up because in my day to day life, I try and reflect and understand from a mindful perspective just what is cycling. This is a difficult answer to come up with, especially if you have ever tried to explain why you ride bikes to someone who doesn’t ride bikes. I met someone on the train last night who is a daily cycling commuter. We began to talk and discuss what it was about bikes that grabbed hold of our lives. Normally I tend to back out of these types of talks, but his situation of cycling strictly for functional purposes left him with some confusion on the recreational and competitive justification of cycling. He had been on group rides before and jokingly admitted to still not understanding why people would push themselves to mental and physical exhaustion for sport. Having thought about this for some time, I did my best to explain to him that cycling is how well we can focus under mild to severe discomfort.
To better understand this phrasing, we need to break this down in reverse. If you have ever ridden a bike for an extended amount of time (minimum 1 week) there most likely has been an instance where you have pushed yourself up a hill, or through an intersection to make a light. When you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and beginning to feel the aches, pains, and burns that come from physical activity, your natural reaction is to try and stop this physical harm you are ensuing. In realizing this we have come to a mental landmark, we have the ability to stop whenever we want. You can always slow down, stop, and throw your bike in the trash if you want. It is unlike the pains that come from terminal illness, that has no off switch. We are choosing to inflict pain on our bodies and because we choose to turn it on, we can also turn it off. This is my best paraphrased example of a discomfort.
Next, we must factor in our focus and concentration under these times of stress. Our bodies both physically and mentally are telling us to stop and (without focus) will begin to send signals to get us to return to this homeostatic state. Once we begin to let these thoughts enter our minds, we are no longer focused on the task at hand. I have to remind myself that I am riding this fast, or climbing this hill at this speed for a reason, and focusing on this goal, along with the idea that this is a temporary inconvenience (the pain) I am more mindful and in doing so, can maintain my composure to carry on. I can relax the muscles in my face and reach new physical and mental ground.
This was one of the ideas that stood out most to him and I feel is a good representation of why cycling is the freak of nature obsession only few know it to be. This self-actualization makes me elated and is why I continue to do what I do. I am glad I have this in my life and cannot comprehend a life without a means of discovery, escape, and wisdom. That and I look great in form fitting clothes.