My friend Fez is a meditation instructor and yoga teacher. We get together for coffee and talk about how the lessons of riding bikes mirror and maybe amplify the central concepts of dharma, in Buddhism the tenets of a sort of cosmic law and order. This sounds heavy and deep, but in reality, we are both just middle-aged guys looking for better ways to understand whatever the hell it is we’re doing. We laugh a lot, and one of the things we’ve been working on together informally (he does most of the work) is a collection of aphorisms to help us enjoy riding bikes more, without letting our egos ruin the party.
As one, maybe my favorite, example, “Remember, E.T. is always in the basket.”
If you are of a certain age or have been lucky enough to see the movie E.T., you might remember the scene where Elliott is trying to escape the government agents with E.T. by smuggling his wrinkly little friend out of the house in the basket of his bike. A classic chase montage ensues, and just when you think the kid and his alien buddy are gonna get caught, the bike lifts off the ground, and they fly through the air together, Elliott cackling away in sheer joy, wonder and triumph.
Remembering that E.T. is always in the basket means remembering that joy, wonder and triumph are always possible when you’re riding your bike.
Fez has not been riding bikes as fastidiously as I have over the last three decades. He’s been doing yoga and meditating and playing in bands and surviving cancer. Twice. The upshot of that is that Fez is discovering a lot of things about riding bikes all the time. I have advised him on technical issues and purchases, and he has given me a fresh perspective on the fun that’s available if you have the right attitude.
He asks questions like, “Is it worth getting a stationary trainer?” Yes. “Can I ride in snowboarding goggles?” No.
Fez said, “It’s hard to remember E.T. is in the basket when you get in better shape.” Then he said, “Today’s lesson is, don’t push to your edge. It will come to you.” Then he tried to convince me that Phil Collins’ solo oeuvre is worth listening to.
One of the things I love most about Fez’s journey of cycling discovery is that he’s not really concerned with what “serious cyclists” do. In fact, he is wary of affectations and received wisdom. This is hugely helpful for me in evaluating what I ride, wear, and do on the bike. Fez wants to enjoy riding his bike. He’s not trying to Everest or track his watts or beat anyone at anything. He’s trying to keep his ego out of it, which is a thing he brings from meditation and yoga and studying Buddhism.
I’m on board with that, like E.T. in the basket.
A week or two back, Fez was out on his bike. He often reports rides to me, sometimes with new aphorisms, sometimes just with observations. And spring in New England can be capricious, one day warm and inviting, the next day featuring freezing rain and high winds. Fez had gotten one of those, and he said “That was both fun and not fun to ride in.”
I wrote back, “The not fun IS the fun.” And he said, “Yes!!” And we added it to the list.