A ride doesn’t just clear my mind, it fills it with fresh ideas. If I go out for more than an hour then often answers appear and new ideas flash into my mind. This might sound like spurious justification but for me it’s true, issues I might have been weighing up can often get resolved. Some say sleeping on a tricky decision helps, I say go for a ride.
One theory is that cycling helps the brain produce “alpha waves”, a relaxed state of mind you might get whilst sitting relaxed with your eyes closed but awake, close to daydreaming. I’m not so sure as I’m generally alert rather than close to sleep, although if I let my mind wander things like potholes, passing traffic and effort can get managed on autopilot.
Great minds think alike
“My mind only works with my legs”
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
It’s not unique to cycling. 18th century writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau said “I can only meditate when I walk… …when I stop, I stop thinking… my mind only works with my legs“. Similarly, Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard stated “every day I walk myself into a state of well-being… I have walked myself into my best thoughts“. Rousseau and Kierkegaard didn’t live to see the bicycle but there’s every chance they would have enjoyed the simple act of cycling too.
There are less poetic reasons to explain how a ride can clear the mind. After all, once you are riding you can’t do much else. Even on a group ride you might not talk a lot. There are no distractions from ringing phones or incoming emails. I suppose it’s easier to think when you escape these things.
A healthy mind in a healthy body
There are the simple benefits of exercise. 2,000 years ago the Romans spoke of “a healthy mind in a healthy body”, today the modern day benefits of exercise are better known. Relaxation and well-being contribute to a sharper mind.
If you’re lucky enough to ride a lot, you can get a mild addiction. There’s the comfort of routine but the endorphins too. These aid relaxation but there can be a downside, missing a ride can bring feelings of frustration and cold turkey.
Whether it’s philosophy, escapism, plain exercise or even addiction, have a good ride this weekend.