Ok - lets get this out of the way- I am not fast. At least by cycling standards I am not fast. By non cycling standards, I am fine. I just got home from a fantastic 27 mile ride. It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I can't think of a better way to spend some of it. I averaged about 16 mph today and that is a really good day for me when riding alone.
I just love what riding provides for me. Obviously, it is great exercise and it definitely makes me feel a little better about that dish of ice cream that I am sure I will have later today. But, there is so much more to it.
I love the personal challenges that it provides me. I love hills and the challenge of not down-shifting too early. The idea is to maintain your power and speed as long as possible before down-shifting and, ultimately, slowing down when ascending hills. It takes a great deal of willpower not to down-shift too early. But, if you can focus on maintaining your speed and power long enough, hills become less daunting and your goal (the top of the hill) is attained with significantly less pain and suffering! There are great lessons to be learned on hills that pertain to so much of life.
Another great benefit for me is the time alone with my thoughts that an hour or two on a bike provides. I spend so much of my life "switched on" while working with students that it is just great to get on the bike and just think for a while. This morning, our pastor encouraged us to consider the landmarks of faithfulness in our lives. That is, the places that we can encounter God's grace in our lives. For me, my bike is that place. On my bike, I am able to appreciate the beauty of the world around me: the wind, sun, rain, grass, trees, winding roads, beautiful homes. I could go on and on. In this environment, I can be thankful, meditative, prayerful, reflective, reverent, and even creative. Yes - in many ways, my bike is a landmark of faithfulness in my life.
Finally, when I get home after a great ride, I am better. I have more focus and concentration. I am happier and generally more positive. I pay better attention to my kids. I am more attentive to my wife. I feel better. Yesterday and the day before, I spent about 13 hours in a state music educator's association board meeting. Don't get me wrong, the work that we do is important. But, afterwards, I felt terrible. Today, I got on my bike and rode away that 13 hours. I just feel so much better.
Recently, my sister and her daughters have started cycling. I am so proud of her and the girls. She called me a few days ago and told me how much fun they are having and how good this new activity has been for them. I hope that they can find some of the enjoyment and enrichment that I find on a bike. I think they are on their way.
So, if you are considering it, do it. Buy a used bike. Start out slow. Ride around the block. You don't need to break any records. But, trust me when I tell you. Cycling makes me better. Maybe it will make you better, too!