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Cyclical Philosophy

August 04, 2017Staff



Bicycling is not only a sport, but a means of transportation to get a person from one
place to another. As such, you could look at it as a means of negotiating a road just
as philosophy is a means of negotiating life. In both there are directions to take,
choices to make and destinations to choose. In both philosophy and cycling, one has
to choose one's way of going about things and learn from one's mistakes. Following
are a few of the lessons I've learned on the bike that I have been able to take with
me into the larger realm of life as a whole.
Or, If I using my recumbent exercise bike at indoor, it also teach me many things
about physical and mental philosophy.

Exercise in the Morning
Traditionally, Native Americans of the Navajo Nation begin each morning running
toward the east to greet the gods that come up with the sun. Native American
tradition says that a runner creates a "living cord between the earth and sky." This is
how I feel when I bike to work in the morning: I am creating a connection between
myself and my universe. What better way to start the day?
I notice that when I take the train to work, whether I read or sleep or just sit there, I
arrive tired and lethargic and have to rev myself up for the repetitive work I do all
day. When I drive, I arrive aggravated. When I bike, on the other hand, I arrive
energized and positive. After all, I just had an adventure! I lock up the bike, wash
up and change, and I am really, really ready to start my day.

Dealing With Danger
One of the benefits of cycling to work is the danger. Yes, that's right: the danger.
Most of the danger comes from "sharing" the road with cars.
Dealing with a greatly superior and often hostile force is full of important life
lessons. Some of these lessons I learned the hard way. For example, once I was
riding along down the right hand side of a line of cars stopped in the road. I didn't
think that they might stopped for a REASON. So when the oncoming car turned
across my path I was unprepared. My bike smashed into the side of the car and I did
a shoulder roll across the hood, collecting some road rash as I skidded to a stop on
the pavement on the other side. Well, let me tell you, it didn't take me but four or
five times to realize that when cars are stopped like that in a line like that, they are waiting for something to happen. If you are a bicyclist, you don't want that
'something' to happen to you. So I learned to slow down and find out what it is
before I smack into it.
Several times cars have sped up to beat me to a corner and turn in front of me. A
couple of times I hit them, and several times I have gone down. Luckily I have not
ended up under any-one's wheels, but instead have learned to listen for the car
accelerating to beat me to the turn and slow down in time to avoid the collision.
Sometimes a bicyclist is just going to crash. It happens. But knowing that you might
hit a deep patch of sand or gravel, you might misjudge a turn, or you might forget to
pop out of your pedals in time serves to remind you that these things might happen
and encourage you to watch out for yourself to try to make sure that they don't.
Extending these lessons brings up the wider idea of anticipating problems. Granted,
in life, some bad events simply drop out of the sky onto you and you have no choice
but to deal with them. However, many times, if you examine the event in your
memory, you will realize that you could have avoided a disaster by noticing the
warning signs.
When I ride I am totally alert and every sense is turned up to maximum. I am
watching for the door of the parked car to swing open in my path or the car darting
out of the driveway; I am listening for the sudden sound of braking or accelerating
behind me; and I am feeling the road surface through the bike for adverse
conditions.
When I am not riding, I am still in tune with my surroundings. On a dark street I
hear the footstep or the car door open, and in my home I am conscious of the
background noises, whether some child is doing something they shouldn't or some
washing machine or furnace is about to go ka-fluey. Watching for hazards on the
road has taught me to watch for hazards in the rest of life, too.


Courtesy
Although I seem to be alone in this realization, I have found that one of the best
ways to avoid danger on the road as a cyclist is to show courtesy and to maintain a
courteous attitude. Most cyclists seem to feel that they need to fight for their rights
on the road against drivers who regard them as persona non grata. I agree that a
little bit of that is sometimes necessary, but usually in my experience drivers
respond better to courtesy than confrontation. Hand signals and a polite wave of
thank you or "my bad" can go a long way toward taming road rage, and a courteous
response to road-rage-induced invective can calm down an enraged driver who
might otherwise take out his rage on some other innocent victim down the road.

Likewise in life, although there are certainly times to play hard ball, as the saying
goes, one can trap a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar. If you want to get
people to cooperate, being nice works a lot better (generally speaking) than being a
jerk.
Cycling taught me why it is important to be courteous.


Planning
Both the hazards of day to day commuting by bicycle and training for bicycling
events have taught me to plan better. I need to plan what to do if I get a flat tire. I
need to plan to have biking clothes and work clothes to change into. I need to plan
to maintain my bicycle.
One reason my near-death cycling experiences have greatly decreased in frequency
and ferocity is that I have taken the time to plan my route. My main criteria? To
avoid parked cars. Parked cars are the cyclist's bane. After dodging doors for a
couple of years on commutes though high-traffic business districts I finally got wise
and designed a new route past a couple of parks and golf courses. I looked at
MapQuest and checked out the route I should take, then I drove it to check it out. It
turned out it wasn't even any longer than my old route, just more peaceful.
Although it takes much more courage and willpower to plan a route through life
than a route for a bicycle commute, the same principles apply.

  •  You must recognize that a problem exists
  • You must overcome your own inertia
  • You must do the research
  • You must make the new plan
  • You must test the new plan
  • If it passes the test, you must implement the new plan

Yes, I know it sounds like a lot of work, but if you do the research and testing,
you'll know you're doing the right thing.
Cycling has taught me the value of planning.

Focus

When I ride my bicycle, I must focus. I must keep optimum position on the bike. I
must keep a steady pace. I must shift smart. I must listen and watch for road
hazards. I must feel for adverse road conditions. I must be prepared to react.
To be focused is a good way to live life. To notice every nuance and potential
problem, every sound and sight, smell, taste, and feel is to get the most out of life.
To be ready to react and ready to recover is the essence of survival.
For about two hours a day, when I commute by bicycle, I am utterly focused on
cycling. It's like meditation. When I am finished with my ride, my mind is clear and
I am more than ready to face my next challenge.

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