Category Archives: perceptions of cycling

Bike culture

The thing you learn from being a cyclist is you don’t give up, you keep fighting and it’s funny how that transitions over into other things in life.  John Tomac, rancher and mountain biker

From the simple form of the bicycle springs a variety of culture.  Cycling, like music, fosters vital expression of the human spirit.  It allows us to move abreast with our days, creates meaning and helps us make sense of our lives.  The experience of cycling brings us together with place through the application of our skills with an elegant, purposeful, and artful technology.  We can trace all the variety in cycling back to this original experience, the exquisite freedom and sensations of cycling reverberating contagiously deep in the inner oceans of our unconscious.

A bike ride always feels worthwhile.  Somehow it unlocks our perceptions and gives wings to the art of becoming.  It’s a creative act, bringing us into a powerful state of joyful relations.

The preamble of thought, the transition through which it passes from the unconscious to the conscious, is action.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

Cycling puts our ambitions in check with our practical abilities.  There is no shame in living cycling.  It’s a way of reading the land, celebrating with nature.  In a world of pop culture and groupthink, cycling is a way of living directly.  An unmediated way of caring for yourself.

All things real are so by so much virtue as they contain…I see the same law working in nature for conservation and growth.  Power is in nature the essential measure of right  Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self Reliance”

Cycling is really something wonderful to celebrate!  It’s a discipline that is dictated by our nature and follows truth.  The truth is our body’s health is integral to our mind and wellbeing, and we must take care of it.  By developing cycling skills, we are enacting an understanding of the value of our health, and practicing responsibility to all life.  Cycling is a beautiful gift, a part of our heritage.  Cycling extends our powers and lives in a joyful way.  The variety cycling is generating is amazing.  John Tomac’s example in the video below shows how cycling is part of the fabric of a larger American culture, something that is fixing itself in the soil for good.  We are seeing the love of cycling connecting vital elements of sustainable culture around the globe.  Cycling runs deep, through our legs, hearts, and lungs, through our hard work, through generations across time.  It’s simple really, oxygenated blood pumping through our bodies is good for us.  And rolling on wheels with our family, friends and whole communities is unabashed fun!

American mountain biking is fun-based and grassroots, and it’s always been that way.  —J. Tomac

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Coryn Rivera, the new American bike racer

I feel free and comfortable when I’m on my bike.  –Coryn Rivera, from Team Sunweb

A 24 year old from Tustin, California, Coryn Rivera became the first American to win the Tour of Flanders this year.  Her first ride was at age 8 on the back of her parent’s tandem bike.  She started cycling on her own at age 9, but didn’t get much experience riding on the road until she got her driver’s learning permit at age 15.  Turning Pro at age 16, she’s won 71 US National Championships.  That’s not a typo!  And now she is performing at the world’s highest level.  Coryn also won the RideLondon Classic this year with her phenomenal sprinting skills.  Check out her Road Bike Training Tips on Liv Cycling.  What an amazing journey.  What a cool sport.

Cycling: 14th Tour of Flanders 2017 / Women / RVV / © Tim De Waele

References and Photo Credits:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/tour-of-flanders-win-a-dream-for-rivera/http://www.velonews.com/2017/07/news/rivera-wins-rainy-ridelondon-classique_444951
http://teamsunweb.com/riders/coryn-rivera/
https://www.liv-cycling.com/us/teams-and-riders/team-sunweb-women/103/coryn-rivera/651
http://corynrivera.com/
https://www.liv-cycling.com/global/campaigns/6-road-bike-racing-and-training-tips-with-coryn-rivera/21572

The fire inside

I clap my hands in infinite joy and amazement, before the first opening to me of this august magnificent, old with the love and homage of innumerable ages, young with the life of life, the sunbright Mecca of the desert.  And what a future it opens!  I feel a new heart beating with the love of the new beauty.  I am ready to die out of nature, and be born again into this new yet unapproachable America I have found in the West.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

I cycle up into the high country
From a city at the edge of where the mountains touch down
Rising above the Río Grande’s winding course through the green center of town

At the top of the Sandias filling my water bottles
People approach me shining with lively curiosity
Conversation flows easily on this August day

Where did you start from?  How long did it take?
From home, not too long, you can do it too!
One foot after the other, eat, drink, be comfortable, take your time

And marvel at how cycling activates our care and joy
The fire inside us flowing upward like an awakening volcano
We see the world with new eyes rediscovering beautiful America

Cycling in beauty

“This is the most beautiful place on earth.  There are many such places.”
–Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Here are a few photos from places I’ve cycled the last few months in New Mexico.  One of the great pleasures of cycling is the sense of appreciation it builds for the places we live in.  Every ride the splash of wind, the lay of the light on the land, the wildlife I see gives exquisite pleasure and imbues me with a sense I am in the most beautiful place on earth in this moment.

Highway 64 takes you high into the Brazos Mountains above Tierra Amarilla with views of the Brazos Cliffs

The Sandia Crest road about halfway up. Those green patches are the ski slopes

Cycling is special like music.  It gives us a chance to express ourselves and sprinkles a little magic into our lives.  Every ride is a chance to be creative, explore our abilities, increase our capabilities, develop leadership skills, improve results and build up our trust and confidence.

When I go outside I experience the great mystery.  It’s like walking into an art gallery or concert hall.  The road is the pathway in, and the best ones are aligned in subtle ways to fit to place. Traveling there gives us an expansive feeling, like we are part of something greater than ourselves.  As much as we recognize this beauty, we can assimilate it into our understanding.  Cycling is a living communion, a humble conversation, touching infinity.  A way of learning.

Our effort, our sweat and breathing, is the sacrifice, the price of admission.  Suffering on a bike is not that bad, actually beneficial, when we realize we get way more than we give.  It’s a small fee to enter a much larger world.  It’s cathartic, cleansing, and happily satisfying.

“Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love and respect shown toward it, and by the way in which its bounty is received.” –Richard Nelson, The Island Within
I am grateful for cycling!  

Celebrating Steve Tilford, a cyclist and communicator

It takes a certain amount of discipline to allow yourself not to get caught up in the adult world so much and see the world through the eyes of a child. When you do that, it makes life much more enjoyable.  —Steve Tilford, from his blog

The first NORBA Mtn Bike National Championships, 1983, Santa Barbara CA. left to right John Loomis, Steve Tilford, Steve Cook. From Ned Overend’s Facebook post on Steve’s passing

I was sad to hear Steve Tilford’s life tragically ended in a highway crash.  Steve was the first US National Mountain Bike (MTB) Champion, a seven time World Champion (5x MTB Masters, 2x Cyclocross Masters), and all around world class rider who shared his cycling experiences daily through is popular blog.  I didn’t know him personally, but his work has been a source of inspiration for me.   The photos in this post without captions are from my recent travels.  And here’s a song that has been playing in my head that seems appropriate for this moment.

Steve was an American original.  His beautiful writing shares the essence of a cycling life.  By reading Steve, I learned more how cycling grants a better life, and creates a better society and world.  His understanding was deep and rich, and he was honest and willing to talk about what he believed.  As a communicator he did naturally what George Lakoff teaches.  Steve framed facts in moral terms (Steve called out cheating cyclists, for instance) and activated our empathy and sense of social responsibility.  He showed us what cyclists go through, shared the cycling spirit, and made the community cycling generates more visible.  Steve evoked the joy, love and adventure cycling brings, and taught us how cycling connects us with our own humanity.

It’s the humanity that Steve communicated that stands out.  More than a bike racer, he was a good person.  Cycling is communicated as a way of life, of being, that brings fulfillment, meaning and discovery, if you’re not afraid to work hard, keep moving and get your hands dirty.   And what it brings, we see by reading Steve, are friendships and a sense of community that is absolutely incredible.  The prosperity cycling brings spills over into every life area.  Steve brought the great traditions of cycling forward, and adapted cycling to our times.  He had so much knowledge and understanding.  I’ll miss reading his blog and hearing about his racing experiences, and being surprised on which neighbor he was helping, what was happening in his hometown of Topeka, Kansas, the people he was meeting, and history and outlook of one of the world’s best cyclists and greatest teachers.  He blazed a new path and left us a trail.  Stevetilford.com

Mountain roads and sacred places

“A good scientist doesn’t have to be separate from the world to make sense of it.”  –Eva Saulitis, Every Reason to Stay in The Sun Magazine, January 2017

While cycling in Japan I discovered some amazing places, like the one pictured above.  I was on a super narrow road, a path really, and the light shining through the bamboo forest canopy and pooling on the ground startled me.  When I’m out cycling my work interests in geography, culture and sustainable transportation flow together with my sense of curiosity and wonder.

Sakai City Japan, the suburb of Osaka where Mai’s parents live, is the home of Shimano, a leader in cycling manufacturing.  Shimano adapted technologies from gun manufacturing in the 1800’s and applied them to cycling parts construction to meet demand for cycling.  Shimano has a bicycle museum in Sakai City.  I’ll have to visit!  This time around I was happy making my own firsthand experiences cycling in Sakai City and the adjacent mountains.  The museum looks very interesting, as they tie together the evolution of technology with the ongoing development of cycling culture.  Cycling is an epic story, a way to relax in nature, build community, be joyful and work towards big picture goals such as global sustainability.  The museum website is here.

Cycling works as a positive force promoting a sustainable, connected, healthy way of being.  When I met other cyclists on the road in Japan there were head bows, encouraging words, and looks of understanding, unspoken communication of shared joy.  The bicycle builds natural and inclusive culture amazingly well if people are open to it.  Cycling creates communion.

Japan’s beauty is awesome.  On this road pictured below climbing up into the Kongo Range, a creek and waterfalls were flowing beside the road.  The landscape’s sweet music.  It reminded me of the sound of meltwater running off the San Juan Mountains I hear in the Ironhorse in Durango, Colorado, which is upcoming this May.  Cycling keeps me motivated and looking ahead to the next sequence of discoveries and shared experiences.  What a joy.  Thank you!

Why Cycle? Because it works!

Cycling in Japan is more about getting the groceries than getting fit.  –Byron Kidd, tokyobybike.com

Anytime we travel or do something out of the ordinary, it gives us a special perspective on our daily lives.  That was certainly the case when I traveled to Japan.  A few things dawned on me that are working in Japan to create a robust walking and cycling culture.  It’s not perfect, but I learned a lot there.  Here are ten reasons why walking and cycling are thriving in Japan.

1. Everyone walks and cycles.  It is a daily necessity, and expected.  It’s the way people go shopping, and to work and school.  It’s the way people access open space, get fresh air, exercise, and spend time outside together.  Walking and cycling are routine, everyday habits.  Errands and exercise flow together.

Seniors ride their bikes to Thai Chi practice in the park

2. Automobile drivers are disciplined, careful and attentive.  Drivers expect to see people on streets and crossing at intersections, and are prepared to yield to slower traffic ahead and when turning.   Drivers reliably use blinkers to communicate intentions.  Driver education and training is extensive and the responsibility of driving is taken seriously and respected.

3. Communities are planned as villages, and are oriented around train stations.  Businesses cluster around the train station, creating a village center.  People live within a short walk or bike from the village center and walking and cycling are the easiest, cheapest, most convenient way of getting to where you want to go, and the best way to access shopping and services.

4. Japan’s train system is awesome.  You really don’t need a car because it makes more sense to take the train.  Trains are accurate, frequent, fast, smooth and safe.  Quality transit makes good community planning a lot easier, and is a building block for healthy, efficient and sustainable transportation.  You have freedom to read, relax, talk or meditate on the train.

5.  Japan has the lowest car usage rate of any of the G8 countries.  This means roads are smaller.  Smaller roads necessitate lower speeds.  Lower speeds for cars means calmer streets for walking, cycling.  Reduced speed differentials increases safety and comfort.  Smaller roads are easier to cross, cycle on, and navigate, and do business along, and it feels like healthier human habitat.

6. Compact, dense development makes destinations closer.  Japan is more careful about space efficiency because space is precious.  With denser building, more destinations are within easy reach by walking and cycling.  Compact, dense development makes walking and cycling very useful, as well as super interesting.  Cars are designed to be space efficient, as well, and the nimbleness of walking and cycling is prized.

7. Japan has a great cycling culture naturally.  From school children to elderly, business people to homemakers, everybody cycles.  It’s just normal.  People cycle in their day clothes, and functional athletic gear, too.  Whatever is fitting.  Towns and businesses serve cyclists by making parking convenient and easy because it makes rational sense and people use bikes for everything.

8.  People walk everywhere, and people are used to sharing space.  Cycling benefits from a strong walking culture.  It means drivers are accustomed to the presence of people on the streets, are on the lookout, and patient to share.  Walking is the foundation of the transportation system in Japan, and it anchors the streets in a culture of sharing.  People have priority.

9. Safety and security is high.  Bicycles are usually parked with a simple lock immobilizing the rear tire.  Streets are family space, and feel inhabited.  Public spaces are clean, organized, cared for and well-tended.  The architecture, design and the way things fit together is beautiful.  There is a strong sense of social responsibility, order, respect and dignity in Japan.  It feels neat and safe.

10.  Walking and cycling is easy, convenient, and effective.  The Japanese take advantage of the most basic forms of transportation by using them as organizing principles and practical tools for daily living, including making people healthier, happier and connected to the community where they live.