Posted by: reexaminedlife | June 12, 2010

Little stupid things

Handlebars

I often ride my bike to work in the summer months.  [Summer in Vermont is a subjective term but it’s the most summer-like of the weather we get.]  I’ve always liked the time I have riding the ten or so miles to work in the mornings.  It wakes me up in a very pleasant way.  It provides me with a time where I can just spin along and think without interruption.  When I arrive at work I feel fully charged and ready to take things on.  I miss those mornings in the winter when I have to drive in.  I’m not a morning person and tend to feel like I’m in a fog until mid-morning if I don’t get outside and do something physical early in the day.

I recently built up a new bicycle from old parts laying around in my basement.  This bicycle is intended purely for commuting and errands.  It has fenders, a rack, bags to haul my junk around in and a more upright riding position.   I’ve been riding a bicycle to work for almost 20 years now and in that time I’ve nearly always had one of those little bicycle computers on my handlebars.  These computers have a clock, speedometer, odometer and often provide many other statistics about the ride.  Since I just built this bike up I didn’t have a computer handy and couldn’t be bothered with re-wiring the sensor onto the fork anyway.  So the bike continued without a computer.

On my first ride out on it I was amazed at how often I found myself looking down at the handlebars to see what my current speed was.  I would estimate that I looked down for the nonexistent computer at least a couple of times every mile.  It was surprised at how habitual this behavior had become over the years.

It took several days before I stopped habitually looking down at the bars.  As I got out of this habit, I noticed something else.  I found that I was feeling a lot more relaxed.  Without the current speed and time information reminding me of my progress I found that I wasn’t pressured to keep up a certain pace or race against myself.  I’ve always liked to ride fast and used to react if my speed would drop below 20 mph by putting out a bit more effort.  Without the computer I found that I still like to ride hard just as much and the amount of time it takes to get to work hasn’t changed significantly.  I now notice my surroundings a bit more.  I’m more inclined to take a minute or two to stop and look at something interesting instead of riding on my way.

It’s a stupid little thing but it makes a bit of a difference in my outlook.  It’s enough of a difference that I’m considering removing the computer from my other bicycle.   Many years ago I stopped wearing a watch because I discovered that I had become quite compulsive about checking it.  There may be something in my personality that makes this an issue for me.  I do wonder how many other little things like this might be affecting my stress levels.  I’m sure we all have little external pressures that we allow into our lives that detract from our personal peace or add a little bit more anxiety to a situation.

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