My wife sent me a TED Talk to watch. I watched the first 5 or 6 minutes and then shut it off. I hate TED Talks. They are, in my mind, the pseudo-intellectual equivalent of fringe-web click bait. Each talk features the phrase, “As it turns out…,” which is analogous to “One simple trick to massive weight loss.” In the TED universe it’s all so simple. And obvious. And right in front of your face, but you’re missing it. This TED guys lives in some hyper-rational world where counter-examples don’t exist and people set up to succeed from birth tell us how easy it is to be successful.
These denigrations themselves are unfair over-generalizations. I am a curmudgeon and a spoil sport.*
What does seem to be mostly true about TED Talks is that, no matter how smug the presenter or how tenuous their case, there remains just large enough a kernel of truth to sustain not just 15-20 minutes of pscyhobabble, but a whole industry of it. There is almost always some there there, if you take my meaning.
The talk my wife sent was about marketing and sought to equate the Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Apple. The kernel of truth buried in the haphazard slinging of absolutes and absurd logical leaps was that why you do something is, most of the time, more important than what you do or how you do it.
Let me bring this into bike world. If we apply the “why idea” to a simple bike ride, what we are saying is that what you ride and how you ride it is less important than why you ride. I can agree with this, I think.
I am fortunate to have some nice bikes, a product of the life my parents prepared me for, my career choices, and pure happenstance. What I ride probably plays some role in how much I enjoy cycling, but it’s probably not the most important factor. For example, one of the best rides I ever took was in Mexico at a small snorkeling lagoon on the east coast of the Yucatan. To get to the best access point, you had to ride a little dirt road about a mile around the inlet. They had these old, junky cruisers you could take from the parking lot. The front wheel on the bike I chose was about as true as Lance Armstrong’s palmares, but that short ride left me with the most enormous grin plastered to my face, something about riding a junker through the jungle was just root-level, stupid fun.
How I ride is also not that important. Sure, when I’m on my game, it can be a lot of fun, but as a rider, I am decidedly middling. My fast is someone else’s agonizingly slow. If how was the most important thing the pros might be the happiest riders in the world, and we know that’s not true.
So that leaves why (but also where and when, though I’m going to leave those alone today…see how this selectivity of examples thing works?).
I ride to erase the day from my brain. I ride to be outdoors, to explore, to connect with friends. I ride for transportation and for work. I ride to do rather than to think. I ride to think. I ride to feel gravity in a different, more playful way. I ride because I’m a better person when I ride than when I don’t. This is what’s important, and this why I keep going. Are you with me?
This week’s Group Ride asks, why do YOU ride? Are the reasons clear in your mind? Do you ever let the what and the how get in the way, to muddy the waters and distract you from why? Is your why consistent or everchanging? Did it start as one thing and become another? Or is this all just more psychobabble.
*There are plenty of good and worthwhile TED talks. With the volume of these things increasing so quickly, there is bound to be both wheat and chaff.