Friday Group Ride #282

Friday Group Ride #282

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.

Image: How Do You Get Off That Thing? – Bobby Gadda @ TED x UCLA

*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.

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  1. daveeckstrom

    This is one of the best things I have read about cycling in a long time. Recent years have brought me slightly more time to train and get faster and significantly better bikes to ride, but they have not changed why I ride. My ride is the one time in my complex, nuanced, shades-of-moral-gray life that I can find clarity. For an hour or five, I don’t have to think about what’s the right thing to do.

    I think this is why I like long, unsupported, point-to-point rides more as I get older. All the equivocation just goes away. I have to get home. I can only do it on my bike. For once, my task is clear and I HAVE to live in the moment.

    For what it’s worth, I have long felt the same way as you do about TED talks (including the disclaimer that there are good and worthwhile ones among the overblown obvious common sense and the clearly uncritically examined ideas).

  2. harris

    I ride because I want to. It is as simple as that. I also eliminate the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ from the equation as irrelevant/insignificant; the ‘who’ is the next most relevant question. With friends, with my kids, or with myself, the ‘why’ and the ‘who’ are always as clear as can be.

  3. Aar

    I ride because I love it. It’s the same reason I used to ski. I started riding to recover from a skiing injury. ~30 years later, I’m still riding and there is much less joy in my life when I’m not riding. So, I ride because I love to ride.

    Why do I love to ride? The truth is that I don’t really know. However, it probably has to do with a number for factors in variable parts: physical exertion, wind through my hair, scenery, camaraderie, etc but not competition or anything like that even though a sense of accomplishment is part of it.

  4. Mike Terrell

    I barely know how to answer this. Is ‘All of the above’ a legitimate answer? Physical exertion? Definitely. Clear my mind? Yep. Get outdoors? Most certainly. Do rather than think? Uh-huh. If I could sum it up, I ride because it makes me a better version of myself.

  5. Vince

    I ride because, as a human, I need to play to be alive.

    Frederich Schiller says, “Man plays only when he is in the fullest sense of the word a human being, and he is fully a human being only when he plays.”

  6. John Kopp

    This is the first I’ve heard of TED, but it sounds very much like all the worthless management/motivational seminars and speeches I have had to endure during my working career. Most were pushing the latest fad in management style, but had no clue about existing problems, or how to reach the managers involved. Many were hired because they had a friend at the company. But that’s history for me now.

    Why do I ride? My group leader in Minneapolis commuted to work by bike, and otherwise spent most of his life on a bicycle. So I rode to commute, to meet new people with similar interests on the weekend group rides, and to get away from the stresses associated with a divorce. Exercise is a good stress reliever. But also as a competition with my friend from work to see who could ride the most miles. I wanted to see how much I could avoid using a car. Now I ride for exercise. I used to run, but that puts too much stress on my legs and hip. Unfortunately I don’t ride as much as I would like to.

  7. Michael Levine

    Great piece! I particularity related to the bit about “thinking”, or not “thinking”. While reading, I was reminded of the interview process for the very prestigious acting school that I attended in the 70’s. The very famous teacher, of countless iconic artists that we all have known, would ask the prospective students, “Why do you want to act?” If anyone gave a “deep” or high highfalutin answer, he would dismiss them. If the student replied, “I don’t know, I just have to.”, then he would admit them.
    And…“You don’t suffer, kill yourself and take the risks I take just for money. I love bike racing.” Greg Lemond

  8. Karl

    I ride to gain a more intimate appreciation of my surroundings and in the process have formed lifelong friendships with some of my favorite people in the world, Robot included.

  9. robert

    Don’t know about Ted talks other than they exist. It was a great afternoon today in northern Michigan today and I managed my 35 mile loop. My legs felt like crap but got home happy. My best ride this summer was four hours in mist and light rain. Concentrating on the rode, the corners, and traction. Nothing else but the rain and me. Best meditative experience I’ve had in a long time.

  10. Kyle V.

    I started riding because I needed to do some physical activity since I sit at a computer all day long. Now I ride to connect with the friends I’ve made on the bike, push myself in the competitive arena, and to enjoy my commute rather than dread it.

  11. peter leach

    I am a better person when I am able to ride. Whether it’s because – as a person – I need to exercise, to play, to think, to achieve, to commute, to socialize, to be alone, to unwind, to compete, or in some way, all of these things, I ride to be me.
    What I ride and how I ride have a part to play in the value that riding brings with it – as do the where and when dimensions of riding (or indeed, of each ride), but unless I’m riding, none of these things are relevant.
    Life is short, ride forever.

  12. Les.B.

    Few years ago I was riding Wawona Road, up out of Yosemite Valley, engaging the 3000 foot climb to Glacier Point (recommended). Near the entrance to the tunnel I catch a comment in a snarky tone from what must have been an zealous hiker:

    “Enjoy Yosemite.”

    The hidden message here being that one truly enjoys Yosemite while hiking with feet on the ground and not on a bicycle.

    A major reason I ride is the opposite if the supposition from Mr. holier-than-thou. I find that riding gives me a perfect balance of being connected to the ground, and movement along the terrain that I attain a reverence for the landscape that I get in no other way. The places I’ve ridden reside in a special place in my memory.

  13. Jan

    I ride to indulge my inner 12 year old. It’s fun. I smile a lot. I think and have an empty mind, both. I enjoy the smells and the sights (birds, trees, sky, local neighborhoods). And that said, I think it’s time to go for a ride!

  14. Ed

    Certainly for all of us, riding feeds something in our spirit

    Re Ted talks- while they have their flaws and some border on the self help quick fix, there are also many that offer unique insights.

  15. DaSy

    I think I ride to endure the suffering, as no matter how I start a ride thinking I will take it easy, I always end up pushing on until I feel on the edge of my limits.
    From this I get the ability to drown out all of the rest of the world for a while, and concentrate on just that feeling of managing the pain.
    Ultimately I think that the rest of the non-riding world is mostly happy to make their lives as soft and comfortable as they can, so my self-induced dose of suffering makes me feel separated from the masses and dare-I-say somewhat elevated from them.

  16. Chris

    I’ve done a few different sports in my life, none of them more than recreationally. In high school I played basketball and soccer but hardly dribbled a ball of either ilk since graduation. Prior to that I swam, played baseball, played a season of Rugby in Grade 8, and had a brief stint of Karate. In University, I raced my car in a corner of an airstrip around a bunch of cones in an endeavour known as autocross, but I gave that up when I had to sell that car and buy a responsible, grown up car (with a warranty). Now I ride bikes, and nothing else really.

    I don’t think it’s possible to become so engrossed in an activity for one reason. Cycling for me ticks a lot of boxes. It offers the camaraderie of a team sport without the ‘us vs them’ aspect, but also the solitary quest of an individual sport. There is the speed and occasional danger of motorsport and there’s tech to geek out over too. I like that it is a meshes with a sustainable lifestyle and allows my wife and I to get ourselves and our kids where we need to be with only one car. I like that, unlike running, I can ride in an hour to far flung corners of town – that I can visit my parents house up on the hill and see the entire valley stretched out below me and know that I could ride anywhere I can see, and get back. I enjoy riding with my son and listening to him noticing things – sounds, and sights, and smells, that pass unheeded when we’re driving.

    As it turns out… cycling ticks all those boxes for me, and I’m hooked.

  17. John V

    Just noticed this. I can only add one thought. I ride because it is one of the few things that I do completely on my own terms. With so much to answer for every day, the machine and the road always accept my best.

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