Bike Ride A Metaphor For Life?

I like riding my bicycle.  I especially like riding my bicycle to work.  It appeals to the efficient “engi-nerd” in me: I get my exercise during my commuting time, plus I reduce my gas costs and help the environment. 

The riding conditions today were ideal – clear and sunny, cool, low humidity, very light breeze.  As I pedalled back and forth to work, my heart rate and breathing increased to keep pace with cadence, and my mind seemed to clear.  A question kept playing at the back of my mind: how is this bike ride similar to my life’s journey so far?

  • My home is located on the back side of the hill from our town, and southwest of my office.  When I leave home, I have a choice of routes that I can take.  The east route is shorter and less travelled, but much more difficult to ride due to multiple hills.  The west route actually takes me in the wrong direction for the first quarter of the ride, but it’s mostly downhill.  Of course I start out taking the path of least resistance.
  • The west route eventually intersects with a road that runs to the northeast – the right direction to reach my office.  This road is a heavily travelled, four-lane road that runs past numerous strip malls, shopping centers, and convenience stores.  Most of the drivers rush past me at well over the speed limit, despite the heavy traffic and frequent intersections with stop lights.  At those speeds, they miss a lot of the road signs and scenery along that road.  They’re focused on the car ahead of them or the next traffic light; their goal is to pass down that road as quickly as they can.  Usually, I’m the only bicycle riding down the wide shoulder.  At my pace I’m much more aware of all that is passing by me.  I’ve had to learn to be on guard for everybodies’ sake.
  • Eventually, my route leaves that road and passes through the center of town, before connecting me with a bicycle trail for the final part of my ride.  The ride gets better the further I travel on.  The stress and tension of the early roads dissolves as I pass under the trees lining the the bike trail, the morning sun filtering through their leaves.  I’m happy to be riding on that trail, with the breeze of my passing cooling my face.
  • Even so, I’ve become aware that I frequently lose focus and begin hurrying during my rides.  I catch myself trying to race ahead faster, cutting corners to reduce my travelling time.  I become narrowly fixed on reaching my destination, and I loose the enjoyment of the ride.  It’s a self-centered attitude.  When I’m reminded that the purpose of the ride is the ride itself, and that reaching my destination is the by-product, the ride becomes a joyful experience and I can’t help smiling.  My attititude shifts from an inward- to outward-focus, a small step, but a huge change.
  • Today, I also had an encounter with a driver that all cyclers dread.  I was passing down the road near work when a pick-up truck pulled up to the stop sign at an intersection just ahead.  I had the right-of-way, but he and I made eye contact, and I began to brake instinctively.  Sure enough, he pulled out into the lane where I would have been had I just continued on, then he immediately turned right into the driveway just ahead of us, forcing me to brake a second time to avoid him again.  I just shook my head in disgust; he probably didn’t like my helmet, I concluded.  I knew that I needed to forgive him, and I did try, but it was a feeble attempt; I felt personally slighted.  However, in the afternoon, as I was riding home, I was hurrying again as I passed through a downhill T-intersection.  I was focused on passing through before a car that was approaching the stop sign in front of me on the left, and I didn’t hear the car that was driving behind me.  I turned left in front of him without signalling.  Fortunately he compensated for my poor driving.  I had been given grace by that driver; I needed to extend grace to that pick-up driver from the morning.  Perhaps he really didn’t see me…

That’s it.  It seems pretty clear when I’m riding, but it’s a lot harder to type it into words.  What’s your opinion – do these observations ring true, or are they simply my mind’s attempt to draw meaning out of random events?

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2 Responses

  1. Check out this wiki entry — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29

    As you say, hard to put into words.

  2. Jeff,
    Thanks for the link on flow. I’d never heard that term before, but it accurately describes what it’s like when I’m present in the moment and not focused on the goal. The discussion about flow within groups was a nice bit of serendipity – it describes how I see this blog working. I’m privileged to know a great number of outstanding people from the different seasons of my life, and I’m excited to see what happens when they come together to share in one, big electronic discussion.

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