Today was a pretty uneventful ride. It was forecast to be a gorgeous day, and my Tues-Wed-Thurs schedule this week means I can’t bike in to work, so Monday and Friday are the planned ride days! Oh, how much I look forward to my ride days.
One unexpected thing about commuting by bike is how much time I spend thinking while I ride. Unlike the subway where I’m always nose-deep in a book or the latest long-read article I’ve got saved in my Instapaper app, on the bike it’s just me, alone with my brain and hundreds of fellow wheeled conveyances. Thoughts come in, they go out again, and unless they’re particularly salient, I can rarely recall what I thought about for the 35 minutes I rode.
I remember when I practiced yoga in college and I approached my instructor, feeling unable to meditate in the traditional way. “I can’t empty my mind,” I told her. Don’t think of it as emptying down to zero, she advised me. Just let a thought flow in – I should pick up onions for dinner. The guy in front of me has back hair. I would love to go visit Heather next weekend but it’s going to be expensive. – and then let them flow out again. The key, she explained, is not to get bogged down into a single thought, but rather to let them flow through your mental fingertips.
Ride-thinking is like this, too, and it feels unique in the current structure of my life, so maybe I don’t spend very much time allowing my brain pan to fill, and empty, with harmless chatter. Perhaps that’s another reason I love riding so much. The list is getting long.
A random note: in the morning, as I cycled past our park, the Chinese fitness class that takes place every day was playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. The earworm hitched a lift with me: the entire way into Manhattan, I was humming that movement. Now I’m thinking, what are some good songs to hum while cycling? Classical music seems like a good fit if you know enough of the piece to hum along, but most of my classical mental repertoire is limited to “things I learned in piano class, age eight through eleven”. So, Fur Elise and The Magic Flute. That might get old.