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Buddha on the Bike

dp_sella

Dan Patitucci training on the Sella Pass, Italian Dolomites

A couple of years back I had a realization. Riding a road bike was feeling as natural as breathing or eating. Since 1987 I have been training, racing and riding a bike for the pure joy of it – almost everyday. But it wasn’t just a comfort level I noticed, it was something more, the bike was literally a part of me, a part of my life.

2007 Maratona dles Dolomites. Buddha time

Then I read Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers and discovered his 10,000 hour rule. He says that for any skill, at roughly 10,000 hours of dedication, one “masters” the art of what it is they are practicing. I went back to my pile of training logs, did some math, and sure enough, I was at 10,000 hours.

Now, years later, I still ride and think about this. Mastering cycling doesn’t mean being the fastest or best bike handler, it simply means the body knows how to be on a bike, knows how to make it move and knows how to respond to training stimuli.

But what about my head? As an aging athlete with a lifetime of sports behind me, I am beginning to think about all of this a bit more, to really understand my body, to understand its health and most of all, to understand what it is I am all about. On the bike I sit, often alone, for hours at a time. Pedaling is my discipline, it is also meditation. It is important to practice the discipline, but it is crucial to look inward when doing so.

Uphill, spinning, relaxed shoulders, relaxed seated posture, breathing; I call it my Buddha time. The mind is clear, not doubting, not thinking too much, letting everything go and just pedaling. The head clears, life is simple, a discipline allows this. I return to this quiet feeling in times of stress and it gives me strength. Like the Buddha beneath the Bodhi Tree, the Tree of Knowledge, we cyclists are on the path to our own enlightenment as we sit on the bike processing so many things.

Some sports let us do this, they give us time to think, or to not think if this is what is needed. My own are often solo, in the mountains, where I go to practice what I believe is ultimately best for me. I look back at my own writing and find consistency in what I share; reflections on life, whether it be while cycling, running or backcountry skiing.

I genuinely hope that you, while reading this, can replace each reference to myself, with your own “I'” and “My”. Maybe hitting 10,000 hours really only allows more clarity, or it allows the mind to be a bit more free. But no matter, as long as one is mindfully on the way is what seems most important.

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting.” …The Buddha

Stress Management, Pordoi Uphill Time Trial

We’d love to hear your thoughts, feel free to comment below with your own experiences. Thanks.

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Comments 17

  1. Wow, great post. I can totally relate to all of it, but for me lately it’s running that gets me to my Buddha state.

    There are still voices that nag at me, saying, “this hurts, you’re tired, maybe you should turn back now, etc.” I listen to them to see if there’s any truth there, but most of the time it’s just built up stress burning off. Refocusing on form and breath brings me back to center and the joy of movement and exertion, and seeing what I’m capable of.

    I like that last photo. 😉

    We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. ~Buddha

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      Hey Gabe! So we don’t remember, did you make that last photo or did Janine? UH oh, if you did do we have to pay? 😉
      Ya running is the same, totally agree. Many things are the same, it is just the discipline of repetition along with some physical requirements.
      –dp

      1. Yes, I made that photo, but it’s all yours. I’m honored to see it up there and I’m forever grateful to you two for the amazing Dolomite experience last summer. Incredible barely begins to describe it.

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          1. Absolutely! Stacey needs to meet you guys and experience the Dolomites, huts and real pizza! And strudel! Plus we agreed right from the start that our kid will be traveling, camping, tagging along on hikes, climbs, rides, etc…

  2. running, cycling, uphill skiing… fresh air moulds your skin, while from inside you cook your matter into energy in endurance. We are all “born to run” as we are all born YOGIS and Buddha, in studying, feeling within what the skin, all skin (“every cell, BKS Iyengar says) delivers from outside. “The body is the temple of the spirit, expand your body to expand your mind”.
    We run, ride, swim,dive, hike,practice asanas to experience yoga’s ultimate aim: “to stop the modifications of the mind” (YOGA CITTA VRTTI NIRODHA), at least for a few hours…is this why trail races are getting longer and longer, steeper and steeper, like the new Tor de Geants next Sept, 330km, 25,000m elev??!
    Namasté, Tite http://www.yogaxrunners.com

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  3. You sure you ride alone because of all this? Or you ride alone because you cannot keep the pace? hihihihi

    Would love to hear Alex opinion on this 😉 His Buddha time was for sure in the river ‘SPA’ behind our house.

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      OH Igor, how you make me smile. I like you more and more each time you taunt me. I am leaving for holiday only so I will have excuses to get dropped. 😉

    2. Dan and Igor,
      Excellent post Dan, and it inspired me to think about what cycling is to me, physically, mentally. And I may have a bit in writing for you in the next week on it.

      I think about all the painful moments I had sucking Igor’s and your’s wheels, and it makes me smile. Is this odd?

      Yes, the cold Dolomite run-off was the best natural ice bath after a long day cycling the passes. I think you could divert some water into a little pool and advertise it for the cyclists who want to recover at Ustaria Posta. Although it is a strange feeling to try to walk and not be able to feel the legs.

      The water always returns. From mountain to sea and back again. Patience is water’s strongest virtue.

      -Alex

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        Alex, Insightful as always – thanks. As we are in Mauritius, laying by the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, I will ponder your line:

        “The water always returns. From mountain to sea and back again. Patience is water’s strongest virtue.”

        I especially like the part about “back again”. Today I will practice being patient. Perhaps even take a nap… 😉

        Dan

        1. Yes,

          Rest now on the beach = play hard in the mountains later.

          The harder you rest the rest of your next ride can be harder.

          Pordoi TT in July?

          You two are amazing peoples, inspiring lives you lead inspire me.

          Thank you for sharing it all in pictures and words!

          -Alex

  4. Yes, the time on the bike is a wonderful time, because i´ve time to relax, to think and dream and so on, especially when i´m alone. I think not only the time on the bike is great, but the time after cycling is great. Because then i´m satisfied.

  5. Nice job Dan. As you know,I have been doing these things all my life. Running, cycling, even climbing. Never got really good at any, but felt “comfortable”. As Chounard says, “relax your mind, you’ve got to relax your mind”. My zen time. Keeps me sane. Well, sorta. Thanks for putting it into words.

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      Joel,
      Climbing remains for me the one thing that when I am doing it, I am only doing it. Looking forward to climbing more this year after some years off.
      –Dan

  6. Yep, it is hard to do in climbing and maybe different. I can’t do it anymore. Too out of shape physically. Its more like push everything else out if your mind. Worries gone. Dislikes gone. Just the climbing. The moves flow from within. The mind is empty of other things. But the numbers can get in the way.

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