A cycling koan …

Author unknown, but I first heard it from Grant Petersen, of Rivendell Bicycle Works … I don’t remember if he told it to me, or if it appeared in one of the old (Bridgestone) BOB Gazettes or in the Rivendell Reader. The original source really doesn’t matter; but rather what the story illustrates.

A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monasteryand had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The teacher praised the first student, “You are a smart boy! When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do.”

The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path!” The teacher commended the second student, “Your eyes are open, and you see the world.”

The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo.” The teacher gave praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student replied, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings.” The teacher was pleased, and said to the fourth student, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, “Ahh…. I am your student!”

People ask me why I don’t train as I should if I want to be a competetive racer, especially for cyclocross since I love it so much … somewhere along the line I realized that cycling to me is not about being competitive; it is simply about riding the bike.

I love cyclocross; I love that it’s about bursting a lung, while your heart is pounding, pounding, pounding in your chest, and the entire contents of your abdomen from neck to gut feel like their about to eject from your mouth … “oh look! there’s my spleen!”

Riding cyclocross is not about winning for me. It’s about having fun. It’s about riding my bike.

So why didn’t I ride yesterday’s race up in Heber? Multiple reasons; first and foremost is that I have been recovering from a back injury, and am completely out of shape … and I don’t believe in inflicting pain on myself in such a manner that will keep me off the bike (or off the ski slopes) even longer.

I also enjoy watching watching cyclocross; I enjoy seeing other people experience the same sort of exhilarating pleasure of suffering that I get … and if enabling others to experience that same thrill means that I must sacrifice, then that is what needs to be done.

There is a full season of cyclocross ahead … I guarantee that I will hack up my spleen and kidneys at a few of them.