It’s pretty hard to separate the bike from its movement. There is a fetish for the bicycle as an object, but that’s a secondary way of appreciating the machine, mainly based in the bike’s primary role as a thing that moves. But this isn’t the semantics of cycling. In fact, it’s almost not about cycling at all.
Antecycling describes all the things that come before pedaling, the a priori reasons for riding in the first place.
For example, when I was 7-years-old, and I had just felt the dizzying rush of balancing on a moving bike for the first time, a whole world of potential adventures opened up before me. The first place I went was up the narrow lane from my grandparents’ bungalow above the village to the sprawling farm where my uncles tended their dairy herd. In the same thought bubble, I couldn’t believe the bike would take me all the way to the farm AND I wondered where else it could take me.
The universe of adventure is antecycling.
One of my friends told me the other day that women, generally speaking, connect face-to-face, while men tend to connect side-by-side. Obviously, this is a gross generalization, but pushing past the neat, gender-based contrast of it, I can tell you that side-by-side, saddle-by-saddle is how I’ve had some of the very heaviest, hardest conversations with my friends. Something about that neutral terrain makes it easier to open up and to connect.
That’s antecycling too.
The bike, through its ability to take us away from stressful environments or just to take us to more soothing ones, is a valuable mental health tool. Sometimes, even when I don’t want to crank until my mind caves in, I can soft pedal to the woods, sit on a flat rock and stare at the stirring trees until I feel better. Sometimes I need that.
And that’s antecycling too
The point is that sometimes the bike and pedaling isn’t the point. It’s not all watts or miles or intervals, KOMs or PRs. Those things are ok. But whenever I flirt with burnout on the bike, it’s usually some antecycling I need, to ride my bike without worrying so much about riding my bike, or at the very least to remember all of the reasons riding a bike was so magical in the first place.