The digital age has compressed time. The internet, smartphones, and cable 24 hours news cycles have driven us to think that more is more. The more emails we answer, the more news stories in our feed, the more social media we consume and post, the more we will be on top of our game. But the real #FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is what happens when our brains and lives slow down.
If the Covid pandemic has taught us anything, it's to slow down and enjoy the time we have at home and outdoors with our families, friends, and most of all, ourselves. Less time on the road, less time commuting, and unfortunately for some, less time working is the opportunity to embrace a less-hurried pace.
In my mind, the most magical thing about biking is the ability to make time slow down, and distance even disappear.
But, of course, distance is measured differently for cyclists and non-cyclist. I can’t even remember how many times I have asked a stranger for directions or told someone where I just came from on the bike to hear their astonishment that I could ride more than 10 or 20 miles?
The first rite of passage I can remember is the milestone of learning to ride a bicycle. Our parents take the training wheels off and gently push us with a hand on our back to build momentum and guide us in a straight line. Finally, after a few or many aborted efforts and some scraped knees, we find our balance and seemingly defy gravity.
Bikes are freedom. They empower us to go places on our own.
Even if it's only five blocks to a friend's house, as kids it let us get out of the house without needing a ride from mom or dad.
Sometimes our bikes can get us out of trouble or in trouble. While I am no speed demon, on multiple occasions on the “mean streets” of Queens I have pedaled away from older kids looking to take my bike or whatever was in my pockets.
As young teenagers, my best friend and I rode our bike places not fit for boy or bike. For years, Queens Boulevard was known as the “Boulevard of Death” because of the high rate of traffic deaths. We rode our bikes almost the length of Queens Boulevard, onto the service road of the 59th street bridge to Manhattan. Back then, unlike today, the service road was a metal grate, not paved, and was barely wide enough for the one-way car traffic that buzzed by as we rode over the East River.
When I first moved out of the city to a New Jersey suburb, I was itching to take a ride up 9W north in Bergen County. This route is now almost a superhighway for cyclists traveling from the city to reach the hilly, green roads into Rockland County and Bear Mountain. So, on my brother-in-law's old ten-speed on that first attempt, I made it from Fort Lee to Closter, and then flatted. Wow, I felt so accomplished that I rode 10 miles in the suburbs. But, of course, 50 years later, 10 miles is not a ride; it's just a warmup or cool down.
Biking places can reduce or extend our journey. The longer I ride, the shorter it feels. It doesn't make sense, really, and it's hard to wrap your head around.
It has taken me decades and well over 100,000 miles to develop this mindset. So naturally, my fitness and biking endurance increases my comfort and confidence on my bike. But it's not the main reason I enjoy my long excursions. To steal a great quote from Yogi Berra about baseball; "Bicycling is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."
I have rambled long enough about my rapture for bikes and bicycling. I am not urging you to become a "Mamil" ( a derisive term that refers to guys like me; middle-aged men in Lycra with all the gear, clothing, and a stable of expensive bikes). No, you don't need to be a marathoner runner or Ironman triathlete either. But you do need to unplug, disconnect, and slow your pace. Find an activity and passion that will take your mind and body outside of the daily noise and pressure that life dishes out.
For better and worse, bicycling has marked many significant milestones in my life. I arrive back from a good ride (and all rides are good rides), physically refreshed and mentally recharged. Usually, I have a few new ideas in my pocket or good answers to the pressing challenges facing me that day. Like any good journey, even if you are not in a rush to get there and have no finish line, you remember the mile markers, people, and sights along the way.
This is Alex Cooper. You can find and follow The MindsetCEO on LinkedIn or YouTube. Visit our website and book a call to see how I can help you on your journey from Founder to CEO.