Whether biking with friends or biking alone,
There are countless places in Indy unknown.
Just think of your city and get on your bike,
You'll cover more ground than if you were to hike.
Hop on a trail, there's plenty to choose,
But don't forget your helmet, your gloves and your shoes.
The Cultural Trail shows views of downtown,
Or enjoy Indy Greenways from sun-up to sun-down.
You'll stumble on art that peppers the city
To our cultural landscape, you'll find a new entry.
Just follow the River to learn about Flow,
There's more to that waterway than I ever did know.
From goslings and ducklings to turtles in shadow,
The wildlife you see rivals that of Attenborough.
Fishermen draw food from our city's main vein,
And along the White River you might spy a crane.
I learned domestic birds tend to poop,
At least that was true for this urban chicken coop.
A fountain is nice for when you get heated
Breeze through the spray and find yourself treated.
Shel's questions find answer in every road bend,
Like this picture of where a sad sidewalk ends.
But whether ye be egg, bone or deadhead,
Make sure you always yield to those peds.
Lastly, there's one thing that makes Indy distinct
The landscape you see changes in a blink.
Our Circle City skyline gives way to wonder
But our views rarely lay unencumbered.
You'll see the smog rise from heavy industry,
And five minutes later feel secluded in nature.
Our city's landmarks you'll pass on your journey,
And find yourself stopped by an in-process structure.
Just never forget that when you are done,
To make sure you stop and stretch your tendons.
Yesterday, I felt like a sack of potatoes stabbed repeatedly by sewing needles threaded with barbed wire. But I got on my bike despite the gnawing pain in my stomach. Needless to say, my focus was not 100%, but once I started riding, my stress-induced stomach ache relented. I started to wonder about the mind-body connection.
Walking meditation, a common mind-body practice, is about awareness through physical movement. It's like "The Shower Principle" from 30 Rock: when your body is on auto-pilot (like when taking a shower) your mind is free to wander without purpose. Because of this, we sometimes get our best ideas or biggest realizations in the shower. But does this translate to cycling? And if so, why isn't bicycle meditation more widely practiced?
Well, because of traffic laws, you might say. Or the greater focus needed to safely operate a bicycle. Maybe you would point to the rules of the road, not to mention responsible interactions with pedestrians and fellow cyclists, which require a certain amount of outward alertness. You might say these things to me, but to that I say: Expand your mind. Follow me on this bicycle meditation scenario.
So you're on a deserted Indy Greenways trail during a mid-week afternoon ride. It's maybe a trail you've ridden every day. Okay, every other day. Okay, maybe once a week if it's not raining and you didn't have Mexican food for lunch. Regardless, every muscle in your body works to create fluid motion, moving both you and your bike forward on a familiar path.
Your body contacts the bike in only three places, making correct bicycle posture a must. Good bicycle posture is different from sitting or standing up straight during other meditative practices. Imagine your hands gripping the handlebars. Your wrists align with your palms. A slight bend in your elbows, combined with an open upper body creates a dynamic shock-absorption system. Your chest, biceps, forearms and fingers all work together for steering and balance.
Now imagine the slight curvature of your back. Your spine becomes dome-like, and your sit bones point straight down and back. Your pelvis is rolled forward as your thighs and calves efficiently pump. And on your pedals, the balls of your feet rest gingerly, connecting the strength in your legs, butt and stomach to the gears and wheels of your bike.
Your entire body is engaged on a bicycle. You feel your breath drop in and out of you, almost in tandem with each pedal-push forward. Begin to focus on your breath, and your mind starts to wander. You stare straight ahead at the trail. The miles pass, but you have no formal attention on the distance you've traveled.
The burdens of your workweek creep into view of your third eye. They clutter your thoughts: the worrisome items on your to-do list, your responsibilities to co-workers, friends and family, the thing you didn't say or said too loudly. But as you continue to focus on your breath and correct posture, distractions melt away.
For a moment, you grasp at your authentic self. Body engaged, mind flowing free with thought, you are at peace. And you have reached an honest-to-goodness meditative state. All while riding your bicycle.
Now my meditative friends, tell me, do you think bicycle meditation can work? Check out more information on bicycle meditation methods, and let me know what you think.
Over the past two months, I've noticed a distinct difference in the way I communicate with those around me when I'm on a bike. By car I'm the constantly rushing, frustrated driver, whose most in-depth conversations with fellow motorists are in the form of unpleasant hand gestures. But, by bike with no metal shield to hide behind, I share the road, follow traffic laws more stringently and even have the odd conversation with fellow travelers.
Perhaps it's the close proximity to others--to the landscape--or maybe it's because I don't take for granted the energy I consume when I'm on bike, which comes from my legs and not an oil barrel. Regardless, the random interactions with strangers have become one of my favorite parts about biking in the city. Here are a few that have piled up over the past two months.
At The corner of State Avenue and Washington Street
Stopped at a red light, I pulled up next to a man on a moped. We smiled at one another.
He leaned over and said: "Do you want to race?"
"I think you've got the better odds," I laughed. "But these thighs pack power."
"You never know," he replied.
The light flashed from red to green. He sped off as I yelled: "Hey! I thought you were going to give me a head start!"
At the corner of Mass Ave and Park
A cyclist in a yellow jersey and all the racing garb zoomed past me, only to get stopped at the same red light.
"How's it going?" asked the Yellow Rider.
"Good. Yourself?" I replied.
"I'm fantastic," he spouted enthusiastically. Then after a pause for water: "This is the first time I've commuted by bike to work and to school. And I'm pooped."
Could have fooled me, I thought, sweat-drenched and dehydrated on my own bike.
"I'm actually a first-time commuter myself." I said.
"Really? Where ya headed?" asked Yellow Rider.
"Home now," I said as I motioned in my apartment's general direction.
"I gotta make it all the way to Broad Ripple."
The light changed and he was off before I even noticed.
"Good luck," I said, holding up traffic behind us.
At a street crossing on the Monon
An older gentleman pulled up beside me and my cycling mentor, Pat. He noticed me shaking my hands.
"Hands cold?" he said.
"They're numb." I said.
"From the cold?" he asked.
"From the gripping, I think. I guess I need fancy gloves like you."
"Well, they do help with that," he winked before zooming off.
Of course there are less-pleasant interactions as well. The man who yelled at me from his car last week, while I pedaled in the pouring rain. The motorist, who honked and honked at me for going too slow, then flipped me the bird as she nearly ran me off the road. And the man in the white truck, who sheepishly apologized to me from his driver's side window for blocking the crosswalk on the Cultural Trail.
Good or bad, these exchanges are authentic. And I'm amazed at how my brief foray into riding has revealed an indelible line between the world of bicycles and of cars. My question: aren't we all sharing the same roads?
You know those runners and cyclist you see caught in the rain? As if they left the house totally oblivious to the weather forecast. As if simply looking up to see the darkening skies makes too much sense. I mean, how hard is it to not get caught in the rain? I'd never be one of those people...
But what do I know?
Last Tuesday, I desperately wanted to go for a ride. And even though Chuck Lofton and the gray clouds outside my window were warning me to take a pass, I knew I could get one in before the storm hit. After carefully examining the forecast, I (with no formal meteorological training) decided the skies wouldn't part until mid-afternoon. I headed out, confident I had at least an hour of good riding ahead of me.
I had been told about a trail that ran parallel to the White River and intended to check it out. But first I had to find it.
I pedaled my way West on 10th Street, through IUPUI pre-lunch traffic, past a line of construction workers (who didn't holler once at me, should I be insulted or grateful?) and onto the White River Parkway. Along the way, I did my best to avoid puddles from the previous nights storm, daintily lifting my feet from the pedals to keep from getting splashed.
Rounding the corners toward 16th, I passed Long's Donuts and felt my inner Homer Simpson urging me to stop. I had cash in my wallet, a rare occurrence, and didn't I deserve a sweet treat? I resisted and turned East on 16th Street, when at last the trail was in sight.
Just as I reached the crossroads, intending to head further north, I heard it— the first crack of thunder. Seconds later a moist droplet landed on my lip, and I changed my plans. I would have to race this storm home. Woman vs. Nature in an drop-down, drag-out fight to the finish.
I'm sure the views of the river were spectacular. If I had bothered to look to my right, I might have noticed. But my focus was full-frontal as I charged down the path.
Drip. Drip. Drop. I felt the water sprinkling on my arms.
"Maybe this is just an appetizer for this afternoon's storms," I thought. "The so-so comedian warming up the crowd for the headliner." I laughed to myself: "I've got this."
But my hubris got the better of me, when I realized I was in for a game change. I turned off the trail and onto Indiana Avenue. Traffic lights, cars and slick roads oh my! I couldn't just pedal my fastest to win this race. I had to abide by a different set of rules that stacked the deck in Mother Nature's favor.
I made it to University Blvd and 10th Street before my competitor's true nature became clear (pun intended). The skies parted, and within a matter of seconds I was drenched from head to toe...ney, from front wheel to rear.
I stopped at red lights, counting the seconds until they changed and charged ahead hoping that traffic would be kind to a poor wet cyclist. Not so.
I was cut off, splashed with oily gutter water and even heckled.
"There is a sidewalk for a reason," one passenger dared to yell from the warmth and dryness of his buddy's beat-up Chevy Lumina.
If I could just find a covered bus stop or an over pass, some shelter until the storm subsides. But after a good ten minutes of searching, there was no longer reason to stop. I was drenched to my core. (And by core I mean undies)
I turned the corner of 13th Street, the home stretch. But suddenly I had a change of perspective. In one moment I was sopping and scowling, in the next I felt refreshed and happy. My skin saturated with rain water. Puddles turning into lakes. I began to pick up my pace, careening through the newly formed waterways, measuring larger and larger splashes.
When was the last time you played in the rain? For me it was around 1994. At nine years old its perfectly acceptable to splash in puddles and run to your towel bearing mother with sloshing kisses. I felt cleansed by the rain, wrapped in the fresh earthy scent.
I made it home and ran to give my boyfriend some sloshing kisses. But the towel he brought me went straight to my bike. Every spoke was dry before I even considered stripping off my own soggy bottoms. That's true love.