Cycling can be about speed. But it can also be about stillness.
Leering behind every corner of life, is the possibility of failure and uncovering emotions or thoughts you don’t want to meet. It’s maybe why people choose every day to live in the fast lane, for speed distracts the mind. Don’t stop. Keep going.
But sometimes we need to slow the machine down. Not only to rest and re-coop from the constant strain and pressure we put ourselves under, but to question and be curious about the decisions we are making. When on the bike, physically slowing down is the easy part. Reduce your cadence or increase the gradient. However, slowing down mentally is a challenge for most of us and so underrated that we often forget it’s even an option.
I've realised that whilst on the bike, my mind is much more forgiving. During the ride home tonight, I asked myself three questions that a still and slow mind can uncover whilst pedalling. I’ve also been strict in keeping it to one paragraph per question. A focused mind gets things done, so here goes.
1. Why does riding give you a purpose?
I genuinely believe that human without purpose is an incredible waste. We have so much ability when we focus on something in the right way, but without knowing what we are looking for, we’ll never find it. Riding does give me a purpose. It gives me hope in finding that cycling positive emotion again tomorrow. It gives me an identity knowing I can call myself ‘a cyclist’. It makes me feel part of something different, whatever that ‘something’ is. It gives my mind a tangible focus. If I know I’m working to improve my riding, I don’t have to worry about having another purpose. When I’m on the bike, I truly believe I’ve found it.
2. What would worry you about not riding?
I’d have none of the above. I’d have one less positive focus which means more space for negativity. Taking one thing away would bring me one step closer to feeling overwhelmed. I’d worry about finding another hobby as without one, am I missing out on something? Our preferences are what make us individual. If I stopped riding, would I be as interesting? Cycling takes me to dark places that no other sport has and without that low, would I ever feel that high? My mind is settled during that small time between finishing a ride and deciding what the next one is. They are defining moments and without them, how will I define success?
3. When do you feel most vulnerable on the bike?
When I don’t feel good enough. Humans are forever worried about this. Whether it’s in work, personal life or half way up a hill (when everyone else is passing you with seemingly less effort). Feeling vulnerable for me isn’t just about safety in the saddle. The emotion arises at any given point, with my ego ready to pounce at the first sign of weakness. Am I wearing the correct clothing? Am I strong enough today? Did I get enough sleep last night? When do I feel most vulnerable...? When I believe my negative thoughts. And then wrongly believe, that no-one else has them.
We're all human. We're complex characters who carry around excess thought baggage, that we struggle to offload. Being able to ride a bike with friends, my boyfriend or by myself, has changed my life and I often speak openly about the lifestyle I’ve adopted and love. It’s given me a purpose but it’s also given me the time I often deprive myself of. Slowing down. Next time you’re riding, notice that as with every pedal, your legs may get faster but your mind will get slower. The perfect harmony, and one more reason to ride tomorrow.