Thursday, March 17, 2011

Half Fast

In the old days, I rode my bike at full speed, everywhere I went, if I was by myself.  If I got on a bike, I was "training", even if I didn't have anything to train for.  If I rode with friends, of course, it was a different story.

Over the past 25 years, or so, I have commuted to work by bike, at least part-time.  For most of those years, I commuted a few days per month, then a few days per week.  It wasn't until 4 years ago, in May, that I started commuting every day of the week, 12 months a year.

When I started the full-time commute, I rode the way I had always ridden; flat-out.  I kept up with my time from my house to certain points along the way, as well as for the total distance.  If I was behind at a certain spot, I would jam on it to make up the time before the next checkpoint.

Eventually, I noticed that I was slowing down at the end of the week.  There was just so much gas in the tank, and I was running out by the end of the week.  So, I started having what I called "maximum speed-limit " days.  I would actually set myself a top speed, usually 13 mph, and make sure that I didn't go over that unless I was coasting downhill.

Of course, I was riding fixed-gear, so coasting wasn't quite the same as it is on a freewheel bike.  So, I would normally not get much over 15 mph, even on the downhills.

Oddly, I noticed that on those "slow" days, I really wasn't that much slower than I was on the days that I was trying to go as fast as possible.  So, I started paying attention to the gap between "fast" and "slow".

Sadly, the difference was only 3 to 5 minutes over the course of my 9 mile route home.

At that point I had to face a difficult truth:  I am not that much faster at full-on effort than I am at a relaxed pace.

This wouldn't be so bad, if my relaxed pace was fast.  It's not.  In point of fact, my "fast" pace is just, well, slow.

But, I did learn a valuable lesson.  That lesson?  I might as well ride at a comfortable pace and enjoy the ride.  Since I will never be fast, I might as well embrace being slow.

Since then, I have followed this philosophy on all my rides, including the 100-milers I indulged in, last year.

And, you know what?  I have enjoyed riding a lot more than I did, for a while.  And, my average speed is not that much different.

Buddhist teaching says that enlightenment can only be achieved in the absence of desire. 

My new lack of desire  (for speed) has enlightened me in how to more enjoy riding my bike.



  1. Right On! I love "the ride" itself, and the least stressful I can make it, the more rewarding it is. I still get to where I want to go, and always arrive at "the right time" !

  2. I mostly cruise at a speed that feels right. More than the speed, I pay attention to the gears and when I shift them on my commute.

  3. When you have harmony with the bicycle speed is unimportant. Knowing when you are in harmony with the bicycle is enlightenment.


As always, sorry about the word verification. It's a necessary evil, unfortunately.