‘When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking’.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Scientific American, 1896

Of course, when I was deep down in my depressions, it wasn’t easy at all to get on the bike and start to ride. I was literally sitting in my armchair, staring out of the window and did not move for hours, for days, for weeks. Whenever I managed to motivate myself to go for a ride, it felt more like running away from my fears and demons. That was the time when I faced my toughest opponent of all: myself. Then outside, I hammered the road (or the trainer) in order to ‘kill’ myself. I let it all out – and I screamed, loud, alone in the woods. I don’t know exactly how, but cycling helped me – even then.

Photos taken on rides during my burnout phase

Slowly it became addictive. I started to ride more often again. I realized that all the spinning thoughts started to calm down the more my legs were spinning the wheel. I enjoyed being alone with myself. Just me in synchronization with my bike – either outdoors or indoors, exploring the silence of nature or the intense worlds of virtual training platforms. I did not seek for company; I was seeking for solitude. Never drafting, you know. The more miles I did the more I felt alive and free.

Later this effect continued even after the rides. I started to perceive my almost forgotten body again. Actually my body wasn’t sick, it wanted to exercise. As I learned to work with it again, my mind wanted to act too. Thoughts got sorted and shadows got fought, while plans and strategies have been developed. All with the help of cycling, and even while cycling. Of course, it was quite a time consuming process and it required a lot of patience, but it was time well spent.

Today I consider myself as cured. In the last two years, I learned a lot about myself. This phase in life provided many experiences – not all have been good, but all made me stronger, I think. I started to understand the importance of emotions and can read my inner borders much better now. I know what I don’t want to do anymore, as well as I know what I’m going to do in the future – well, probably not quite precisely, but now I’m opened minded and look forward without fear. It was quite the hard way to learn it, and the process isn’t really over yet.

But I feel my mojo slowly coming back.

My bike and the rides I did helped me a lot to get back to this state. Especially when riding I live in ‘the here and now’ and I feel entirely free. No matter what the elements were throwing upon us, it just helped to strengthen the relationship between my bike and me. Headwinds, steep hills, rain and snow – pedaling against it, crouching in the wind, getting up, all out – it’s like a metaphor for life.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his words more than a century ago. Not much has changed since then. I guess, what he was talking about is mindfulness – being right here, right now, fully engaged with where you are and what you’re doing at that precise point in time. Cycling is a perfect way of achieving this state of mind, because in almost any aspect it can be meditative:

Ride preparation

Preparing my gear is like a nice routine to slowly get into the ‘ride mood’. This already is quite a meditative process. I go down to my workshop in the basement, choose a bike for the planned tour, and check its functionalities. I check the saddlebag too. I have three different road race bikes and I always take an extra rear derailleur hanger with me. The saddlebag needs to be packed according to the bike I choose.

Then I need to decide what pair of shoes and which helmet I’m going to wear. Later I pick a kit and other clothes related to the outside conditions. I prepare the bidons, energy bars, some money and credit cards, keys, check the battery level of my bike computer and smartphone, and decide whether I take my GoPro with me or not. All this happens in quite a focused and calm manner.

The ride itself

The ride itself is pure meditation. The club is called Solitude Seekers because we like to be one with ourselves and out on our own. Don’t get me wrong, a conversation with a friend cyclist or family member is great and I usually enjoy those rides too. But there is times when I prefer to be on my own. I like to focus on myself without being distracted and like to defrag my inner hard drive without interruptions. I like to be responsible for my decisions. Whatever I decide during the ride is good. It is only me on my bike. Nothing else matters.

I enjoy feeling my entire me – mind and body – both working independently but together though. I enjoy feeling the unit of the system – bike and human. And I really enjoy the deep understanding of being part of an even bigger system, feeling the surface of the tarmac on this very moment; breathing, seeing and hearing the surrounding; feeling the elements and forgetting about anything, but the ride I take. Just like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle phrased it.


A flat tire can be meditative too. Of course, it’s annoying first. But think about it. Your system has a malfunction. The flat tire is just an example. It can be anything, a cramp, a broken chain, etc., or – most likely – a flat tire. You are out on your own, your system has a malfunction – and you can fix it! You can fix it and continue with your primary objective, going on with your ride. For many this may sound like a minor thing or a first-world-problem, but I guess people with mental issues can get something out of it. It helps us to regain self-confidence; it’s a lesson to learn.

There’s even something to learn when we are not able to fix the malfunction on our own and have to rely on a stranger. It helps us to learn something about ourselves, about our ability to accept help, to ask for it (…or not, and therefore walk our bike home). I remember when I fixed my first puncture. I was a boy and needed the help of my father to get the tire back on the rim. But when it was finally done, I was proud of what I’ve achieved. It was the first time I’ve fixed my bike myself. It was a good feeling.

You can fix it!


First thing I do when coming back home is to drink a cold beer – alcohol-free, of course. On a hot summer day, I drink two or three of those 🙂 Anyway, taking a shower is next. This is rewards for my body. It deserves it.

Then I maintain my bike, clean and lube the chain, check the tires, etc. This is the rewards for my bike. It deserves it.

Reflecting on the ride. What did I see, what did I experience, what did I learn. What went well, what was not so good. Which part of the system – bike or human – can be or have to be adjusted for the next ride. Going through the photos I took during the ride, postings to Strava and Instagram. This is the reward for my mind. It deserves it too.

Take care and listen to yourself,

(with the help of Wilson and the book from Nick Moore – see below)

Read also: Mindfulness and Cycling

Book recommendation: Mindful Thoughts for Cyclists: Finding Balance on Two Wheels by Nick Moore