“More than any other emotion, melancholy is incompatible with bicycling.”
–James E. Starrs, The Noiseless Tenor
What he said. I’ve ridden my bike at various times with various emotions and feelings: in happiness and in uncertainty. With vigor and in deep tiredness. Mindless and mindful. Hot, cold, wet, dry. With riding companions, and alone. And it just about always changes me. Sometimes just a bit, and sometimes a lot. My spirits are lifted. My body rejoices in the motion. My mind clears. There is no room for melancholy.
I have often found that riding brings me into a mindful state. It is much the same as meditation. I guess you could say it’s a physical meditation, perhaps the same as that achieved when walking a labyrinth. On long rides, in particular, the repetitive motion of turning the pedals in a cadence of the body creates a rhythm in the mind and spirit. Much like a mantra, or the rosary for Catholics, a ride becomes a repetitive and contemplative prayer.
It’s not always that. I remember, after my crash in 2012, when the doctor finally said I could get back on my bike. Because of the way that crash happened I never went through any feeling of fear in getting back on that horse: I had fallen; I didn’t hit anything or anyone, and I was not hit. I have absolutely no memory surrounding the crash. So when I actually got on my bike, it was with anticipation and excitement. That was the most emotional ride I’ve ever done. I was so filled with joy I almost couldn’t contain it.
My wife sat home in fear, hoping that all was well. And it most certainly was. When I got home, she told me the look on my face was one of childish glee and excitement.
And sometimes it’s a test. For example, when the wind blows at me hard and forces me to work for every tenth of a mile. Or the thunderstorm starts when I’m halfway through a ride. Or up that climb once again. On those days it’s all about my body. I feel every turn of the cranks. I feel the air going into and out of my lungs. I feel the muscles in my legs.
And sometimes, a bike ride is just a bike ride.
But most of the time, a ride just fixes “it.” Whatever “it” is. I return home more at peace. Maybe more tired, or maybe less so. But always recharged and ready for whatever it is that comes next.
See you on the bike!