Category: Health



“The world lies right beyond the handlebars of any bicycle.”

Daniel Behrman, The Man Who Loved Bicycles

Yes, it does. In one of my League of American Bicyclists courses, we do an entry exercise that includes the question, “What is the one word that describes what learning to ride a bike meant to you?” The most-often given answer is, “Freedom.” And that’s one way to read the meaning of this quote. Learning to ride a bicycle gave a sense of freedom, a sense that the world opened up beyond the home in which we were growing up. Everything was possible.

As we grew, many of us gave up on the bike. We learned to drive a car, so we put away the “things of a child.” Never looking back, never again thinking about the sheer joy of something as simple as a bike ride.

But wait, there’s more. The bicycle is another way to get from Point A to Point B. For most people, nothing between those two points is important. But, let’s think back to geometry class. There are an infinite number of points between A and B. But while driving in a car you will hardly notice any of them. That big metal box becomes a cocoon, insulating you from the world outside. There are few sights that can be appreciated as you speed past them. There are virtually no scents to be appreciated, as the hermetically sealed compartment’s ventilation system filters and recirculates the air. There is no sound except the radio blasting out the hits, the news, or what have you.

But the bicycle gives a unique perspective. At its fastest (for most riders), it just approaches the minimum speeds used by motorists as they go by, oblivious to their surroundings.

But the bicyclist’s view of the world is different. He is in the moment instead of protected from it. She sees the road in a different, kinesthetic way. He feels the terrain, having to pedal just a bit harder during that slight undulation of the road. At those lower speeds, and since there is no power other than human power, the bicyclist is more involved when going from one place to another.

And, “Oh, that amazing scent! Which of the trees/bushes around me is announcing its presence?”

“Doesn’t that breeze feel great?” she wonders.

“Wow, I hate it when the wind smacks me in the face. Wind is harder than hills…”

There’s a greater awareness, and maybe even appreciation, of the world around you when you’re on a bike.

Freedom. Awareness. Appreciation. Yes.

It’s Too Late…

It’s Too Late…

I’ve heard that from several people, of all ages, and in various contexts. The subtext is, “I should have done it earlier in life; if I had done it then, I could do it well now.” Or maybe it’s, “But I’m too old to do that now.” But starting now, for whatever reason, is out of the question.

I recently saw an article from Sports Illustrated from 1970. Here is the gist of it: A Swedish newspaper offered a $1,000 prize to the winner of a bicycle race from the northernmost part of Sweden to the southern tip of the country. A 66-year-old man named Gustaf Hakansson decided to enter the race but did not qualify after a medical exam.

The race started without him. Regardless, he started behind the “official” riders on a heavy, old bike. Racers were required to stop and check in every night, and restart in the morning. But Gustaf was not in the race; he decided not to do that, and continued on. On about 7 hours of sleep over the course of the race, he led by more than 150 miles.

Eight hundred yards before the finish line, he had a flat tire. He continued anyway, and crossed the finish line 23 hours ahead of his nearest competitor. So a 66-year-old man deemed by doctors to be unable to compete raced, and won, against 50 much younger, much “fitter” men.

Message: Don’t pretend that you can’t. Whatever it is. Life’s too short to say, “I can’t” when you’re really saying, “I won’t.”



“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!

Theme: Elation by Kaira.