"Zen of Cycling" my arse

I've subscribed to Bicycling Magazine, off and on, since the late 1980s.

Always a good source of new toy info, and they had an old editorial philosophy in product reviews of "we don't print press releases", which I always respected. Not sure how much that is holding up these days, and the editorial follows a pretty predictable pattern, but every now and then they come up with a piece of genuinely good journalism, like the recent piece on the lameness of bike helmet testing standards, or the 2011 Eddy Merckx profile.

I still read every issue, cover-to-cover.
And almost without fail, every issue has what I would call the "Boomer-on-a-bike-has-an-epiphany" piece.

The format is pretty straightforward: Narrator describes a Ride of Particular Significance; said ride is either:

a) through some beautiful setting, described in luscious detail;
b) a hell-ride of some sort: brutally bad weather, endless impossible gradient, way faster younger (or older) guys applying an ass-kicking; or
c) a done-it-a-thousand-times familiar ride – but with an unexpected twist!

Narrator finds himself (let's face it, it's always guys), as a result of the [beauty, joy, pain, serendipity] of the ride carried away in some Zen-like reverie or contemplation or revelation:

• For the first time I truly understood what Dad meant on his death bed when he said.... 
• And I realized that this hill with its agonizing switchbacks was in fact a perfect metaphor for my life...
• I knew then that Old Bob would always be with me and Scooter and Dave, in spirit, every time we crested Hog's Back...

If Steven Seagal rode, he'd write for Bicycling
That sort of thing. Think Stuart Maclean on a bike, if you're Canadian. (Garrison Keillor if you're American.)

I don't doubt the sincerity of these pieces. But I have to say: when I'm riding, I don't get no stinkin' epiphanies. Doubtless I am a less enlightened man than these authors.

When I'm on the bike, my consciousness shrinks to nothing but the present moment of the ride: who is around me, what's ahead in the road, what's my cadence, speed, heart rate, how do my legs feel, thirsty, hungry, need to piss, what's my strategy on this hill, what is this body of mine up to at the moment?

This makes me a pretty crappy conversationalist in group rides, I know. (Sorry.)

But actually it's one of the things I really love about cycling: not needing or wanting to think about anything else for an hour or two (or three). For me that kind of brain vacation is a great luxury.

Damn. That sounds like an epiphany. (But it's not. OK?)


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