The other day I was riding my bike and I was having an absolute blast. All by myself, just cruising around town. Sometimes I was riding hard, sometimes easy. Sometimes I was thinking, doing specific problem solving, thinking about different people, pretending I was racing IMWI, but mostly I was pretty much blank or just looking at the road, the trees, the mountains, the clouds and feeling the wind on my face, feeling really alive.
Riding a bike is awesome. I’m writing this because, if you haven’t given it a go for a while, or if its gotten too complicated for you, I’m encouraging you to give bike riding another try. It would make my day if someone reads this and decides to pull their bike out and go for a spin tonight or this weekend. It just might end up being the best part of your day. Here’s my “Go Ride Your Bike” thesis.
I usually ride a bike looking something like this:
This bike is a pure-bred speed machine, I sit on it for 5, 6 and 7 hours at a time, I wear all the clothes and the shoes and I ride it fast. But that’s not how it has to be. And that’s not how it was a few days ago, when I had way too much fun riding around town for a "pre-IMWI workout". It was as simple as it gets – I threw a cell phone and a water bottle in a backpack, put on running shoes and rode this 1980 Schwinn steel frame around the county:
Cycling doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ll call it ‘bike riding’ to rid some of the pretentiousness. Bike riding is a kid’s activity, and I think you’ll love it again if you give it a go. Any kind of bike will do. Put a cell phone in your backpack, lace up your sneakers and go ride.
Biking is not a serious activity - you won’t be advancing up the career ladder, building future wealth or maintaining a clean and orderly household. I understand that, unless you are a professional or competitive athlete, there seems to be little practical advantage to using your time to ride a bike, especially by yourself. However, this might be the point exactly. Biking is an opportunity to enjoy the moment - it might be the only part of the day where you are completely your own boss, where you can do something just for the joy of it - riding just for the sake of riding.
I know that I often find myself doing something or being somewhere or with someone, but that my mind is in 100 other places at the same time. Riding your bike is a chance to finally be present for the moment. As brief as it may be, it can be a wonderful and rejuvenating experience – being in that one moment, that place and that time, for the fun and beauty that it is. If you’re by yourself, and you’re fortunate enough to experience one of these moments, you might find yourself with a quiet mind, or smiling for no particular reason, or cranking the pedals hard just for the sake of cranking hard or riding fast. If you’re with somebody else, you might get to know a totally new part of them, or realize a new part of yourself – people become both incredibly open and attentive when the endorphins are flowing, the cell phones are put away and the whole world shrinks to just you and your pal riding by your side. Who knows what the moment will bring? You might chat away for an hour straight, or you might enjoy simply being with somebody else and being quiet in each others presence.
I’m quite fortunate and grateful to say that these ‘peak experiences’ or euphoric moments happen to me all the time. I ride a bike pretty much every day, and there is almost always at least a moment where I am filled with joy. I don’t know why. Maybe the exercise gets some nice brain chemicals flowing. Maybe it’s the freedom of riding wherever you want, as fast or slow, hard or easy as you want. Maybe it’s the wind in your face and the sun on your back.
Most of you know that I race long-course triathlon, and 112 miles of such a race is on the bike. For those 112 miles, I am in the moment and having the time of my life. There might be 2500 other athletes out on the course, and most of them will know exactly where they are on the course, what’s coming next, and, after the race, they’ll be able to tell you about every detail of the course. I will have no idea. After the race, I’ll tell you it was a great course, lots of rolling hills and turns. But that’s about it for detail. It’s so simple – I’ll just be spinning the cranks, breathing deep, feeling the wind, the sweat, the sun. There is joy, and there is the potential for really fast racing, in that simplicity.
I think everyone can experience this joy just by moving, just by riding your bike as long as you want and wherever you want. Go for 15 minutes. Go to the gas station, or the café, or a loop around the neighborhood. Revel in the simplicity of it as you propel yourself along under only your own power. Maybe you'll be cold for a little bit, or hot for a bit, and these will remind you that you are alive. I want everyone to experience the simplicity of the present moment, to feel really alive, and I believe one of the best ways to do so is to hop on your bike. Hop on your bike and just ride - explore the neighborhood or the town or the county under your own power, at a new pace and with fresh eyes.
I implore you to get out a bike this weekend, or soon, while the great fall weather is here. Any bike will do, your tennis shoes are fine, gym shorts and a t-shirt is great. If you don’t have a bike at all, buy a 10-speed steel frame on craigslist. Go ride for 15 minutes, or whatever feels right. Ride so that maybe you wanted to ride a little more. Leave it so that you will have the desire and so that you will ride again tomorrow, or the next day. Ride on the sidewalk, the road, across a soccer field, ride a bike trail, blow some stoplights, ride through a stranger’s yard. Turn right when the light is red, go straight if it’s green. Go be a kid again, ride a bike for nothing but the fun of it. It’s your show, you’re in charge, you’re the boss.