The mental side of biking – May 2007 (PV group discussion)

I was walking and chatting with friends in the early hours of spring morning: it was a brisk walk designed to bring some aerobic advantages to our aging bodies. With the mileage increasing the conversation faded away in search of breath. Mind started wandering to the “things to do” ahead: plans for the day, the week, the month.

Then an internal voice crept in “It is walking time and you better think of walking”.

Following this inner advise I focused on the muscle of the legs, on the correct movements and on body posture. Without changing pace visibly, just focusing on the right thing to do, I immediately gained a good advantage over my partners. Nothing to do with physical strength: just the result of concentration and attention. Of being on the moment and rejecting multi-tasking and distractions.

The same applies to biking: in classroom and on the road the message from the experienced trainers is the same: “focus on the right positioning of the bike, the right standing of the body, the right line. Focus without distractions and leave all other thoughts at the garage door” 

To maintain concentration alerted even for a short ride is not easy. We are used to do many things at the same time and our mind wander, sometime aimlessly, as lost in a web browsing.

Momentary distraction, lack of focus on the action can bring dramatic results: in most cases it may be recoverable after few seconds but, when balance, centimeters  or speed come into play,  a small lapse of attention could be fatal, especially when your skin is the first line of defense.

The power of the mid to maintain the focus under strict control is the real “advanced step” for all of us passionate bikers. From attention to the “now” comes as well a capacity to constantly judge “how we are doing” and from it what Hans Heinz Dilthey calls it “realistic self-evaluation”.

From biking to real life focusing completely on the task at hand is a good cure to “illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing the ability as much higher than it really is”

The Dunning–Kruger effect is not only creating intolerable presumptuous idiot making our life miserable but also affect large part of the bikers population with the “I know all” virus.

Knowing what you know and, more important, knowing what you do not know, your limits, is the first step for constructive change, for moving ahead in skills and attitude: a better rider is, after all, a better human and vice versa.