I have a very busy mind – it’s chaotic at times – and I’ve long known that cycling calms my mind, especially longer bike rides. It is for this reason I prefer to cycle outside – I ride for the pure enjoyment of it first, then for transport or leisure, and lastly for training. There’s clear scientific evidence about the benefits of cycling outside, through a green landscape.
I’m no scientist, nor trained in psychological, or medical research. In fact, I’m just a bog-standard guy – just another face in the crowd – and I don’t claim to have any special insight, or any special answers. I tend to think a lot and a fair amount of my thoughts end up here, on this site. The visitor numbers to the site suggests that what I have to say closely matches what you lot feel, as you keep coming back for more.
Recently, a woman called Nadine Ansorg wrote the following in her SheCycles post: “The best thing is the freedom that comes with cycling. You can just get on your bike, and start cycling wherever you want. And while you pedal, you set your mind free off any worries, any concerns that you have. I love this saying – ‘when in doubt, pedal it out’. This could not be any truer. I think cycling is a form of active meditation.”
Especially that last line she wrote, “I think cycling is a form of active meditation” absolutely rings true, and mimics my own experience, as well as that of countless other cyclists.
In the pre-COVID era I used to cycle commute (been working from home since the first lockdown started, although now I go into the office at least once per month) and found that, even if I had a rubbish day at work, my mood would soon improve while cycling home. Cycling destresses you. I don’t know how, but as you’re pedalling along, worries just tend to fade away, and you start existing on a more fundamental level.
I rarely find myself consciously thinking about problems while out cycling – my mind’s too busy absorbing my surroundings – but frequently find that after especially a longer ride, on a sub-conscious level, my mind seems to have worked out what it needed to. If you’ve ever gone on longer bike rides, you’ll know how what your mind is engaged with shrinks: you don’t focus on geo-political issues, but instead on the views around you, avoiding that pothole over there, while wondering what kind of plant that is you can see growing in the hedge alongside.
Your world shrinks for a while, and you become a simpler, and consequently a more at peace human being.
The human mind is an incredible thing, and you will probably find that, despite not consciously thinking about problems while out cycling, after a ride answers to such problems just pop into your conscious thought. It’s almost as if your brain was freed from worries, leaving you to enjoy your bike ride, while in the background your brain tackled problems you were faced with. I’m not aware of any other activity that has fringe benefits like these.
So get out there on your bike. Go cycling. Even better, go cycle touring. You will see a beautiful landscape, often encounter interesting people, have an adventure, and find inner peace, all while solving some problems you’re faced with. Those are some serious rewards!