Friday Group Ride #177


Faulkner said, “I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it,” which is another way of saying that writing is less about a pen scratching against a piece of paper or fingers dancing on a keyboard than it is about thinking. The process of putting into print the ideas in your head forces you to confront and evaluate them in a concrete way that can often lead to quite surprising changes of view.

Cycling, I think it can be argued, is another metier that facilitates deep thought and truth seeking. A long solo ride can be meditative. It can help you strip away your fears and insecurities. It can help you see what’s happening in your life for what it really is.

Padraig and I have been working on his new book, and in it, this idea comes up again and again, that the bike brings clarity, that many of us make our life’s biggest decisions while in the saddle. To get married or not. To have children or not. To go back to school or break up with our boy/girlfriend. To quit our job or ride cross country.

I have yet to tell my wife, when she asks if I think we should adopt a baby elephant, “I don’t know. Let me ride on it,” but something like that thought does occur to me. Let me write about it. Let me ride about it. We’ll see.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what is the biggest decision you’ve made on your bike? How did it turn out? Is there a certain place you ride to do your best thinking? Or will anywhere do? Do you need to be alone, or can you get to the same place even in a group? Or with a friend?

Image: Matt O’Keefe

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  1. scaredskinnydog

    This is a good one (something tells me Robot would be a good dude to hang out and have a few beers and conversation with). I’ve solved just about all the worlds problems, over the years, while in the saddle. Problem is the moments of clarity come pretty far out and I never write anything down and by the time I’m back to civilization and cross town traffic and make it up the hill to my home I (sigh) forget everything.

  2. Mike Cress

    “It can help you strip away your fears and insecurities.”

    After four years of dealing with heavy mid-life stuff like the loss of parents and coming a step or two closer to accepting my own mortality, I realized on a ride this week that all that fear is like a psychological headwind. My next thought was, “Hey that would make a good topic for RKP.”

    I decided to stop fighting the headwind and just enjoy the ride…

  3. Peter Leach

    I made the decision to break up with my [then] girlfriend on the long, lonely drive back from a catch up that turned out sadly different to what I expected.

    The biggest decision that I’ve made on my bike has been simply: “I will ride again tomorrow”.

    At some stage during my ‘I will not let knee injuries dominate my life’ period, I remember riding my first 25 km ride. On the return leg, I said to myself: “I will ride this loop again tomorrow – and the next day,and the next…”. Since then, I have thought through many problems, pondered all sorts of issues and made many other decisions on my bike. I’ve experienced the ‘meditative’ quality of riding – both alone and in groups. I understand Mike’s ‘psychological headwind’. And scaredskinnydog’s ‘moments of clarity’, and their loss on a hill.

    The rhythm of the ride – smooth, steady pedalling; rolling through, co-ordinated gear changes – free my mind to seek that easy place where everything is calm andpeaceful, and to return refreshed.

    Ride tomorrow.

  4. ed barrett

    Every great lesson life has brought me can be distilled on any solo ride where I have let the tailwind push me too long, too far and upon making the turn around have discovered that the “real” ride is just about to begin. Hence “everyone is a champion with the wind at their back”. I have discovered that momentum is to be cherished, protected and maintained; that no matter how tired I think I am it will only be harder to start again after stopping. Hence “the only way home is to keep pedaling”. I too have learned to love the headwind, love the incline, love the panting of breath, love the alleged “suffering” and put it all in context and carry on with the task at hand. Perseverance, endurance, clarity of mind, these things a ride will bring to me.

  5. gmknobl

    Riding has helped me make decisions particularly as it relates to my job. I believe any such physical effort can help you decide things if you do it a long endurance thing. Time away from the electronica or other daily interruptions while focusing on a physical effort helps clear the mind in much the same way I imagine and hear meditation does (oops! I almost typed medication!).

    My wife has said I am happier and implied I’m easier to live with when I ride regularly. It truly does give time for your brain to do its job almost in the background. The physical benefits are a bonus. I suspect runners feel the same way only our knees and feet don’t receive the same punishment.

    Off-topic but the last poster brought it up… Buy another bike? My dream for a bike is simply to own one where the basic frame won’t die on me, is build like a tank so-to-speak, and will last my lifetime. That includes the fork and rear triangle. I’m thinking titanium. I want it to be as light as possible for the material. I want some give so it’s easier on my bum than the aluminum one I ride now and would like tough semi-aero wheels that won’t go out of true when one spoke goes and make me fear it will collapse on the next pothole.

  6. Ryan Archdeacon

    Solo rides have always been my favorite avenue for meditation. I think it’s the combination of increasing the blood flow to the brain, the solitude of the experience and just enough stimulus to keep the ADD in check that make it work for me.

    I chuckled a little at ed’s comment ‘discovered that the “real” ride is just about to begin’ because I have often been deep in thought when I was interrupted by my bodies letting me know it was in pain haha.

  7. pushgears

    Nothing-literally. Despite my best intentions to review , reflect, analyze, and plan ahead, my long rides tend to purge the noise from my stream of consciousness and I find myself in tune with the bike; listening for a smooth whir and being one with my machine.

  8. slowslob

    Not sure if I have made big decisions on a bike ride, that’s not really my style for decision making. The therauputic value of a bike ride is immeasurable. After about 2 hours on my Saturday ride, I stop thinking about work, I’ve resolved all my sense of anger/injustice/indigination, and I am ready to deal with problems in a civil manner. That definitely improves decision making!!! and thanks for this piece, I just love that rather lyrical phrase, ‘Let me ride on it’!!! You are warned, I”m stealing that one!

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