Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

16 December 2016

Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?

Over the years, I have come to realize that there we have rationales, and we have our  motivatons, for cycling.

The rationales are the reasons why we say we ride:  You can get to work faster than you can on the bus.  It's less expensive than even mass transportation, let alone driving, even if you are one of those people who will commute or go to the store only on top-of-the-line equipment.  When you pedal, there is one less motorized vehicle on the road--which, of course, is good for the environment.  And, it's good for your heart, lungs and everything else in your body (well, almost).  Hey, I know of people who gave up their gym memberships after they started cycling to work.

Now, of course, those are all perfectly good reasons to ride.  But I don't think anyone--even one who fancies him or her self an environmentalist or a "health nut"--has ever become a "lifer" on the bike only because of such rationales.


Professor on a bicycle


In much the same way that the things that the things you live on are not the same as the things you live for, the things that keep us cycling for decades have more to do with our motivations.  Some of them can be the spawn of rationales:  You might keep on riding because it's helping you to breathe or sleep better, or it's saving you money.  But I think that if we keep on riding from childhood into old age (even when other forms of transportation and exercise are available to us), the things that motivate us are not nearly so pragmatic.

The greatest motivator for me is, of course, that I love cycling.  I have not found any other activity that allows me to spread my wings and keep my feet on the ground at the same time:  I feel the exhiliaration of gliding through the city and country and a connection, if not entanglement, with the ground or the street under me.  And it frees my mind:  I sometimes find myself working through a problem or simply generating an idea that I couldn't when I was in my apartment or at my desk.

I suspect that most lifetime cyclists (or, at least, people who ride for as long as they are able) are spurred by the sort of motivation I've described.  A former partner once observed that for me, cycling is as much a spiritual or metaphysical experience as it is anything else.  The long ride I took every Saturday was, she said, "your equivalent of church".

Now, I'm not a very religious person, but I understood what she meant.  For me, cycling has always been expansive:  My mind is as free to move as my body is when I'm astride two wheels.

I must say, though, that not all of my thoughts are profound. (You know as much about me if you've been following this blog!)  Sometimes my mind plays, or I simply get giddy or silly.  But even in my most mirthful moments, I have never come up with the sort of riddle this creature is pondering:





Yes, I give him or her "props" for that.  But then again, he or she has had 40 million more years than I've had to come up with such a witticism!

9 comments:

  1. The magical mind expansion when cycling has to be experienced to be believed. Better by far than any religion ...

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  2. Not everyone has this mind expansion or religious affiliation with cycling of course - the rationales. Not everyone understands my passion, including my immediate family, for cycling. I either commented on my blog or someone else's blog that cycling to me is my religion - not something I was conscious of until it came out of my mouth - so thank you for speaking about this. Like you I have this life-long love of cycling that I gravitate toward to experience the outdoors, to clear my mind, to process and endure heartache, to move slowly through the world at a pace that is within my control. If that's what traditional religion does for others, then yes, cycling is my motivation and religion.

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  3. Coline and Annie--Could we say that cycling is our religion, only better?

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    1. Hmmm...Perhaps anonymous below comes close. A physical and spiritual need?

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  4. For me cycling is close to being a religion. Better to say it is a sort of very physical yoga, an extension of my more traditional yogic practices. There are my own rituals involved. Unless I'm just headed down to pick up a loaf of bread, dressing and actually getting under way can take 20 minutes, with at least five minutes spent astride the bike in silence, doing breathing exercises. Then I start up very slowly, watching each and every motion I make, taking care with symmetries of the body, being relaxed, riding in all possible positions at this point and doing sharp turn exercises. (All my bikes have drop bars.) Gradually I go faster, go more aero, find a good pace for this day. My guide has been Yehudi Menuhin writing of similar yogic practices for violinists. And I played the violin and viola for decades, before I started having shoulder problems. I used to have a displaced vertebrae in my lower back that I have been able to correct with yoga and cycling.

    My fantasy is to be able to use an entire big airport runway so I could do this with eyes closed and never run out of asphalt.

    Leo

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    1. At the risk of getting tedious, I append a footnote...

      The ride is a meditation. Thoughts arise in the mind, but you pay no attention to them. Neither do you TRY and suppress them, as that itself would be a thought. One's mind goes on like a movie, but we are not watching it. Empty, and yet hyper aware at the same time. It is a delicate balance. After an hour or two of riding "empty minded", one is for once living in the present moment and not, as we most often are, in the past or the future. And the entire rides shrinks down to one pure crystalized moment.

      Leo

      Thank you, Annie

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    2. Leo and Annie--I have always hoped for comments like these.

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  5. Leo--After reading what you've just described, if I were in any position to give you an airport runway, I would!

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