While I was blissed out during a wonderful Christmas baroque music concert, it suddenly dawned on me why I bicycle day after day. Year after year. The frenzied violinists with half closed eyes in their Zen trance while teasing music from their strings, was akin to cycling as a great sensory experience.
Cycling –An Easier Sensory Journey
Cycling is a sensory journey for me. Literally. While bicycling along, it fires my senses for seeing, hearing, smelling, touching wind caresses and on the rare occasion, tasting fresh wild blackberries plucked off the bushes. Sure, the experience must be the same for jogging. But for me, I can go much farther on bike, without great bodily duress.
While you need to undergo significant training to do a first-time marathon, cycling the same 42 km. distance, does not require the same level of difficult training. Even for cycling newbies, they catch on within a few weeks without getting serious leg strains, etc.
Acute Sense of Vulnerability, Heightened Awareness
Cycling frees me to look around anew my environment I am pedalling through, with same jogger’s acute sense of vulnerability to Nature and man-made objects. Each day for the same journey, is different. The same sky has different colours. On bike, I do feel safer from strangers who I may not want to meet. I just have to pay attention to potholes, cars, walkers and dogs.
The scenery and diverse sounds from the bike saddle, is ever-changing, even on a flatboard prairie. The sky soars above you like clear azure blue dome or it’s filled with wonderous cloud shapes casting dancing shadows across the waving and rustling wild grasses.
Of course, I cannot rhapsodize enough about cycling in areas surrounded by magnificent mountains draped with some snow, verdant green forests, plunging waterfalls or burnished by a setting sunset.
Changing Canvas of Vistas, Sounds and Smells
Or cycling along and suddenly seeing a heart-stopping flicker of a red-wing blackbird, plump goldfinch bird or perched high above on a carved totem pole, a live bald eagle near downtown Vancouver. The other day, I realized I missed seeing blue jay birds in the prairies, when I lived and biked around in Ontario.
I’ve come across a purple starfish flung from the ocean onto the boardwalk, a coyote along an urban bike path in Vancouver, a seal on the ocean rock while cycling along Vancouver Island coast or a black bear afar, while cycling on the Continental Divide near Field, Alberta. We’ve seen our share of bighorn sheep up close while cycling in the Rocky Mountains, wild bantam roosters running around on Big Hawai’i Island or caught the scent of spooked skunks in Vancouver’s Stanley Park at night.
Even a city with changing architecture during a ride and buildings, provides a different sensory journey. The smell and bustle of shops, outdoor art and different farmers’ markets I’ve visited
over the cycling decades –places that make me stop. Like the church I discovered with carved wood doors. Carved church doors are not typical on heritage Canadian churches. Then later ,I read the congregation was going to sell the church to a developer.
Wake-Up Bell for Four Seasons Weather
I said awhile ago, the vigour of cycling is endorphin- inducing. I also argue that cycling in all 4 Canadian seasons of the year, is a literal wake-up bell for the body’s senses, when the weather is warm, hot, frigid cold, windy or wet. You cannot help,
but feel profoundly alive while bicycling, even if you are cycling slowly. The freeing vulnerability of cycling is a powerful drug for what it means to feel alive in every pore of your skin.
Cycling Moments Akin to Butterfly Shadows
Sensory moments captured instantly like butterfly shadows. I know I’ve done the right thing to bring along my pocket camera. Sometimes after I’ve eagerly released a whack of photos onto my computer, my fingers tap out paltry words to gift-wrap the photos into another blog post vignette.
Cycling becomes a sensory Zen journey. I hope you’ll enjoy these blog rides with me.