It’s not news to riders that your bike is your therapist. Each one of us needs something different to find the mental release we are seeking – we need to ride far enough, take enough turns, go fast enough. The mental health aspect of the sport is a big part of why many of us ride.
This past weekend I got the chance to leave my life behind and go for an all-day ride. I haven’t done this very much since becoming a mother more than a year ago, though I used to do it almost every weekend.
On Sunday, I got up early, helped get my one-year-old and boyfriend situated, and then packed up my tail bag for the first time in almost two years. There was stuff inside it from rides long past, maps and earplugs and old water bottles that needed to be thrown away. Things that reminded me of the rallies, weekend trips, and long days on the bike that took up my free time, back when I used to have free time.
These days, I get to ride about once a month. I usually spend the first part of the day remembering how to ride while my mind wanders, processing a month’s worth of thoughts and events. The afternoons are more relaxed and faster, more focused.
Riding is much like other moving meditations including yoga, tai chi, and many martial arts. You are fully present in your body, your conscious mind preoccupied with keeping your bike upright, or keeping your balance in a stance or pose. This leaves your “back brain,” as one of my yoga teachers called it, free to let thoughts enter, be considered, and pass on through without dwelling on them.
As your thoughts pass through your back brain, you consider them, poke and prod at them for a minute, and let them go. It is your front brain, your logical, thinking brain that fixates on things. Riding was my moving meditation, allowing me to process worries and stresses without fixating on them. I’ve realized that I was missing that as a mom. My thoughts are always in the present or the future focused on what’s for dinner, who hit who, what articles are due tomorrow and how will I ever find time to write them before the deadline. I need to let go of all those things I’m hanging onto every once in a while.
I’ve remembered that the occasional long ride is critical to my mental health, and I hope to do more of them in the future. Multi-day trips might be a few years away, but long day trips are definitely on the agenda.