A couple of years back I had a realization. Riding a road bike was feeling as natural as breathing or eating. Since 1987 I have been training, racing and riding a bike for the pure joy of it – almost everyday. But it wasn’t just a comfort level I noticed, it was something more, the bike was literally a part of me, a part of my life.
Then I read Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers and discovered his 10,000 hour rule. He says that for any skill, at roughly 10,000 hours of dedication, one “masters” the art of what it is they are practicing. I went back to my pile of training logs, did some math, and sure enough, I was at 10,000 hours.
Now, years later, I still ride and think about this. Mastering cycling doesn’t mean being the fastest or best bike handler, it simply means the body knows how to be on a bike, knows how to make it move and knows how to respond to training stimuli.
But what about my head? As an aging athlete with a lifetime of sports behind me, I am beginning to think about all of this a bit more, to really understand my body, to understand its health and most of all, to understand what it is I am all about. On the bike I sit, often alone, for hours at a time. Pedaling is my discipline, it is also meditation. It is important to practice the discipline, but it is crucial to look inward when doing so.
Uphill, spinning, relaxed shoulders, relaxed seated posture, breathing; I call it my Buddha time. The mind is clear, not doubting, not thinking too much, letting everything go and just pedaling. The head clears, life is simple, a discipline allows this. I return to this quiet feeling in times of stress and it gives me strength. Like the Buddha beneath the Bodhi Tree, the Tree of Knowledge, we cyclists are on the path to our own enlightenment as we sit on the bike processing so many things.
Some sports let us do this, they give us time to think, or to not think if this is what is needed. My own are often solo, in the mountains, where I go to practice what I believe is ultimately best for me. I look back at my own writing and find consistency in what I share; reflections on life, whether it be while cycling, running or backcountry skiing.
I genuinely hope that you, while reading this, can replace each reference to myself, with your own “I'” and “My”. Maybe hitting 10,000 hours really only allows more clarity, or it allows the mind to be a bit more free. But no matter, as long as one is mindfully on the way is what seems most important.
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting.” …The Buddha
We’d love to hear your thoughts, feel free to comment below with your own experiences. Thanks.