Zen and the art of slow cycling

by Raymond Parker on October 3, 2011

in Cycling, Training, Video

“A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.” ~Lao Tzu

If you’re a competitive cyclist, now’s the time to put aside your race face. Even recreational cyclists can benefit from a change of pace from season to season (acknowledging that some of you are anticipating summer).

Inflexible goals can get in the way of experience, not to mention breadth of character. Distance cyclists, obsessed with cumulative kilometres, are especially prone to the tyranny of the calendar.

Resist the urge to obey the odometer. Give chance a chance.

A couple of weeks or months away from training or other goal-oriented riding will refresh mind and body.

Prepare you and your bike for winter conditions, head to the gym for some cross-training or break out the skis.

Maybe you have a bike that encourages you to ride more slowly—an old friend—like my Nishiki, featured in the embedded HD video—on whose saddle you’ve seen the sights, or a purpose-built comfy cruiser. The shortest ride, approached without expectations, can return a wealth of insight.

Whatever alternative you choose, don’t forget to leave room for meditation.

Related: The Tao of doing |Endurance sport: the temple of pain

{ 15 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Ryan October 3, 2011 at 4:57 am

I’m always a ‘slow rider’. My average speed is between 15-20km/h.
I do have an odometer, but that’s so I know the distance to stores I go to.

I’ll be prepping my bike for winter soon.
Speaking of winter, I honestly don’t think I could handle a Vancouver winter. The past four days it’s been raining and cold here and I hate it. It makes the snow look wonderful :p

Well done video also, very peaceful!


Raymond Parker October 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm

We do get snow here, believe it or not and, despite the admitted discomfort, I can attest that the rain is much more cycling-friendly … which is why this place is the undisputed cycling capital of Canada.

I will say that “dry” snow is easier to ride on, not to mention all-around more pleasant to deal with. Mind you, we’d all be a lot happier if municipalities would take their snow-clearing responsibilities on bike paths and routes more seriously.


Conor Ahern October 4, 2011 at 5:28 pm

If you want to become proficient at riding in the rain just move here to Ireland, where riding in sunshine is a once a year novelty. I’ve spent so much time riding in the rain that I think I may be growing gills! I remember August 1985 when it rained every day that month, happy times.


lee kenney October 3, 2011 at 7:12 am

Ahh,age and cunning meets tortoise and the hare ! It is the journey not the destination,google bicycle zen proverb. nice!


Raymond Parker October 3, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Are you trying to intimate that my fondness for slow cycling has something to do with advancing age, Lee?

And, being the old sage I am, of course I ride the bike to ride the bike. Sit at my wheel.


lee kenney October 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Throw a prayer on that velo-prayer wheel,remember the appropriate term is vintage !In vino veritas.


Raymond Parker October 3, 2011 at 9:40 pm

So, how many sonam credits do you figure I’ve racked up by now, Lee?


lee kenney October 4, 2011 at 7:51 am

It was not my turn to keep count.That sounds like a job for Bicycle Repairman{of Monty Python }.But I credit you with that video,a good example of “Awareness”:that the bicycle provides.Eat ,ride ,rest,repeat


Raymond Parker October 4, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Yes. Before realization: Bicycles & cameras.

After realization: Bicycles & cameras.


Conor Ahern October 4, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Why go nowhere fast, when you can go slow and see the sights!


Raymond Parker October 4, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Or, as the great philosopher Frank Zappa once opined: “How can you be in two places at once, when you’re not anywhere at all.”


lee kenney October 5, 2011 at 8:14 am

o.k.,morning has broken,2nd cup of joe and as a result of your blog;I asked the question to the internet.Did Frank Zappa ride a bike?Tune a bike?Thanks,Ray.Also out there”Thumbs Up for Rock and Roll”P.S I’m a big fan of F.Z.,saw him once ,Zappa plays Zappa twice.Cheers


Raymond Parker October 5, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Didn’t he invent the bike? At least, he played one.

I saw him and the Mothers too. For the first 5 minutes on stage he slowly “examined” a sack of vegetables through a gas mask. When the crowd started booing and throwing things, he stood up and said, in that Frank Zappa tone, “Kinda brings out the animal in ya, don’t it?”

Then they played “Call Any Vegetable.”


Renee Layberry October 5, 2011 at 12:54 pm

“Inflexible goals can get in the way of experience”. I love that you said this. I’ve been berating myself for being so out-of-shape that I’ve been afraid to get on my bike – even though I do love biking. Your entry makes me realise how I’m robbing myself by beating myself up like this. And this is the first time I’ve ever heard about biking meditation! Intriguing!


Raymond Parker October 5, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Thanks for the nice comment. If there is any reason for me to maintain VeloWeb, it is to inspire others to get on a bike.

The simplest form of exercise is, of course, walking. I recommend it.

I used to run, and was quite good at it, but then I noticed how pained most people looked when they ran, and I always seemed to be nursing some injury.

The thing about cycling is, even though at its most competitive it can be gruelling, one can do it slowly enough for it to be relaxing and joyous.

Try a visit to a local bike trail.


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