A beautiful young fan yells encouragement to me during a cyclocross race. She repeatedly hollers the word, “focus!”
The beneficial effects of cycling are seemingly infinite. There is the fitness, and the well known accompanying cardiovascular benefits. Blood pressure is lowered, arteries more elastic, waistlines shrink and as long as one can avoid moving trees, the body is the better for it.
This obvious premise is hardly newsworthy.
However, consider the notion that successful cycling requires absolute focus. Some might even say, laser-like focus.
Multi-tasking on a bike simply doesn’t work. In our increasingly distracted, multi-tasking society, activities in which one is required to use laser-like focus are approaching the fate of the wooly mammoth. Of our daily waking hours how much of our time is actually spent with a singular focus on accomplishing one task? Heck, focusing on one task at a time isn’t even happening at MIT. How many blog posts are devoid of distracting imbedded links? Oops.
Take as the most dangerous example of multi-tasking, the epidemic of distracted driving. I know this because I ride a bike on the same roads as the texting, twittering, face-booking drivers of large vehicles.
Even the police are distracted. Exhibit A: Cannondale bike with doctor aboard, versus unfocused police cruiserâ€¦ Ouch.
At work, beepers are gone, replaced now by the smartphone and its omnipresent connectivity to all manner of distractions. Rare is the patient visit undisturbed by the chirp of this multi-tasking appendage. The lead walls of the EP lab used to provide a sanctuary of unilateral focus. No more, though, as the signal boosters allow signal penetration into every nook and cranny of the hospital. Plus, everyone knows that everyone is connected, so not responding immediately is often considered a slight.
But then there is riding a bike.
Balancing on a twitchy, two-wheeled marvel of human powered locomotion requires focus. Bike behaviors like navigating a rotating paceline, swerving through a glorious single-track, carving corners in a criterium and getting clipped in quickly at the start of a cross race all require maximum focus. It is like meditation; no other background noise can occupy the brain. Unlike running, walking or gyrating on some gym machine, cycling mandates concentration for successful navigation. And in this day and age, endeavors that discourage multi-tasking, even for brief moments, are indeed welcome intrusions.
All cyclists have their own examples of laser-like cycling focus.
Cross-eyed in a race, trying desperately to maximize smoothness of motion so as to hold the wheel of the stronger rider who is doing the sameâ€¦Focus
You look down the rocky descent. A ‘y’ in the road is about you. Ride or walk: this is the question. Rideâ€¦Ok, but this will require maximum concentration. Commit and focusâ€¦
Approaching a sand trap, not with a golf club and cart, but rather with a bike, calls for a deep breath in and then: commit, accelerate and focusâ€¦
Yes, laser-like focus and cycling go hand-in-hand. These all to brief moments of total immersion into one beautiful task are surely one of cycling’s greatest benefits.