Better Than Our Nature’s Allow

Does riding a bike make me a better person? Not better that you. That’s not what I’m suggesting, even if I have, on occasion, dabbled in self-righteousness. No. What I’m asking is, does riding a bike make me a better person than I would or could be without riding?

Set aside the issues of physical fitness, which are obvious. I’m talking about character here. I’m talking about better behavior, better relationships, a better mindset.

First a little about me: I’m impatient. If any one characteristic describes my personality, mood, and approach to life it’s impatience. My mind is racing, and neither I nor the world can keep up. I have written a long list of basic rules that no one seems to abide by. I can achieve anything if only I go fast enough. Why is everything, always taking so long? In my frenzy, I feel certain that my salvation, all of our salvation, relies on getting to the next thing, whatever that is.

None of this works, of course, but there you knew that.

I’m also highly fallible and often wrong. It’s tempting to say I’m extraordinarily imperfect, but that’s just ego masquerading as humility. In truth, I’m a garden variety human, confused, imperfect, and naive, bumping up against a myriad of other humans in the exact same state.

I’m judgmental too. I think this is a natural consequence of being impatient and often wrong. I know better, but somehow the judgements keep coming, rising from the murky mists of my mind, like bats streaming from a cave at dusk. It’s exhausting. Someone turn it off. Someone make it stop.

So how does the bike address these things?

As Padraig once told me, “You know, you can’t hurry up and ride a century.” Miles will pass only as quickly as they’ll pass. Your will cannot shrink time or space. If you pedal long enough, the bike will bring you to patience. Humility too.

Because I am impatient and judgmental, I am frequently in a bad mood, too. The bike burns a bad mood like a German motor car burns high octane fuel.

The bike creates time in a way. When you are riding, you are mostly not living your regular life. You gain distance from your problems, your resentments, and then there you are, floating in a sort of purgatorial space, where your better nature can prevail.

I know I ought to slow down. I know I ought not judge. I know that bad mood isn’t/wasn’t doing anyone any good. The bike is a time out. The bike is a purgative. The bike lets me get through my life, some days, without getting any of my obvious imperfections on the people around me.

Are there other ways to access the better parts of my character? I’m told meditation is an effective tool, but if you see paragraph three above, you’ll understand the inefficacy of that solution. Or put another way actually, meditating is what I’m doing on the bike. It’s the thing that gives me the requisite time and distance from the crucial decisions and interactions of the day.

I like to believe that there’s a good person in each of us, but sometimes we can’t access that person, because he/she/they are hidden behind a bunch of bad impulses and subsequently bad behavior. Sometimes we’ve just been misinformed about how life works, given bad information by the generation before. Either way, with enough time and consistency, we can ride ourselves better.

That’s what I think.

If you have thoughts on this piece, share them below. If you liked it, consider sharing it, using the buttons right beneath these words. If you’re having a bad day, cheer up. It’ll get better, I’m sure.

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  1. TominAlbany says

    Don’t sell yourself short. I think you’re probably a good person without the bike. Perhaps the bike lets YOU finally see it.

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