Rattling around in my head yesterday was the phrase, “It’s not about the bike”, popularized by the tell-all… or tell-mostly… or, tell-a-version-of-reality, book about Lance Armstrong.
I wasn’t thinking about it in terms of racing, of course, but about heading out into the wild and enjoying one’s surroundings on the bike. It started like this:
When you are out on the bike, enjoying the terrain, the scenery, the temperature, it’s not really about the bike. That stuff was already there before you and your bike showed up. It will be there after. It is the same whether you are riding, running, walking, or just stood there having hopped out of a car for a bit of a look.
But my next thought was that there is something about the medium through which we experience our surroundings that does actually make it better (or worse).
Stood there, you can appreciate the beauty of what you can see from where you stand, and although you can soak it all in and really enjoy the moment, it’s a single perspective. Hiking or walking can increase this. Driving in a car you can see plenty, but you don’t really get to see plenty, and you don’t get the same sensations, smells, sounds, and it disappears in seconds.
A bike, of course, occupies all of this middle-ground. You can stop whenever you want, go as slow as you want, go anywhere you want, and get to cover large distances. These weren’t new ideas to me, or, I”m sure, to you.
What also occurred to me, though, is that even beyond this, it’s still sort of about the bike. First, I thought about how the view hits you as you pedal through it at a pace that allows you to soak it in. Cresting a hill or rounding a corner, the landscape opens up before you and places you in it in a way that you don’t get when stood there or even while walking or running. You are going fast enough to interact with it as it moves around you, but slow enough to really enjoy it. I feel like a living part of it rather than an observer of it.
Like hiking, the sound of tyres crunching on gravel and the wind, sun, or rain across your face allows the rest of your senses to participate. Unlike walking or hiking, however, there is something about the bike, carving around corners, charging up hills, and hurling down them that seems to me to celebrate life in that moment much like birds or other animals seem to when chasing each other around for the enjoyment of it.
Your perception of your surroundings may even be enhanced due to the improved mental state that cycling is known to generate. And so, those same hills may appear greener, that sun even more delicious, the sounds of nature that much more musical than if you were just stood there and appreciating it.
Anyway, you get the idea. If you like riding a bike then I think you will know what I’m going on about. You may already be of the opinion that it is about the bike. At least a little.
If you don’t, I hope you have something else that does this for you. If you don’t, or if you want something else that pours life into you, grab a bike, and go ride it somewhere nice. You’ll be glad you did.
Header image: The Sticky Bidon