As I sit here wondering when I can go on my next ride, a ride that can wash away most, if not all of my frustrations from this morning (don’t ask!) I come across an article that explains a great deal of this pull I feel from my bicycle. When, when, when will I saddle up again to ride off to a place that’s beautiful and peaceful in my mind.
By Bill Strickland
This whole craze you must by now surely have heard about, of practicing mindfulness — roughly, a moment-by-moment awareness of your behavior, emotions, thoughts, sensations, and the world around you and the connections between them all — is actually a pretty old idea, like other modern trendy pursuits such as twerking and taking selfies, both of which first gained popularity in Egypt when the Upper and Lower regions of the land were politically united under the first Pharaoh in 3150 BCE. Buddha came up with the concept of sati well before the high mountains were introduced into the Tour de France, and by the time six-day racing was invented in 1881 the Pali language scholar Thomas William Rhys Davids had translated the Buddhist term into the English word “mindfulness.”
Someone I was out riding with suggested that, because so much of my writing about cycling teeters toward the spiritual, I ought to do a whole piece on ridefulness. After I asked what the hell it was and got it explained to me, I thought the topic was a pretty good one. Then we climbed a really bad hill and I was rideful on the whole damn thing.
I don’t mind being rideful when, you know, the sun is shining but not hot, or when the sky is that kind of blue you might as well not even try to describe, or when the pack drops some jackass then after a few more corners sits up and eats good sandwiches from their pockets or whatever. But that’s kind of the default for us, anyway. We’re on a bike and the world is better than it was before we got on, and we not only are aware of it but almost can’t be otherwise: We are flooded sensorily with beauty and with ugliness so striking it outstrips much of what passes for beauty in other people’s lives, and we are suffused with purpose and that marvelous aimlessness that can exist at the same time. And a cold Coke tastes better than anything. And you soar at the same pace as a hawk. And the next turn whispers something you will do anything to hear. And a hill makes you hack out a good chunk of your soul like a loogie — a stringy one, too, that gets all over your chin and makes people look away.
Cycling is so full of so much that we take its abundance for granted, I think. We forget that most people don’t live the way we do — that, for them, being aware of and awash in the world is an oddity. Our exalted state — the equivalent to the rare condition of intensified being that all these businesses are trying to implant into their employees, and that all these books are trying to instruct people to do, and that all these gurus are suddenly yammering on about — is not ridefulness but ridelessness.
Everything disappears. Kind of. You’re also kind of everything. There’s no bike, no road, no you. There’s just a ride, then there isn’t even that, but it’s never ever nothing.
In a few pedal strokes, a few minutes, sometimes a few miles, we become rideful again. Eventually, that ends, too, and we lean our bikes against the wall or hang them from a hook, and someone somewhere will get around to asking us how our ride was, and we’ll say, “It was great,” which isn’t even close but what could we really even try to say — that we were out snapping pictures of ourselves twerking with the Buddha?