Cycling And Philosophy, Part 2

Heraclitus of Ephesus

About 13 months ago, I shared a thought on cycling and philosophy.  That was well received and I have waited patiently since then to have another thought so I might try it again.  I am pleased to report that I think I have thunk a thought, and it concerns Heraclitus of Ephesus.

More on Heraclitus in a moment.

One of the things I like about cycling is the variety it brings.  There’s lots to see out there and cycling allows you to see more of it than other recreational activities.  Still, it is not too difficult to exhaust most of the routes in your local area.  After several months/years of riding, you cannot help but find yourself repeatedly riding the same roads.  I have read many bloggers lament this fact and I also can find this to be a bit tedious at times.  To keep things fresh, I work hard to come up with new places to explore and different combinations of the same roads.

But perhaps I am being too literal.  As the season changes from Winter to Spring, the roads I slugged over bundled against the cold look decidedly different.  The foliage is different, the animals are different, and I am dressed differently.  Heck, even the drivers and pedestrians are different.  In many ways, riding the same road is a new experience for me.

Enter Heraclitus.

Heraclitus lived in the 5th Century BC and predated Socrates.  In addition to being a curmudgeon, he tended to think of how the world was in a constant state of change.  Nothing is permanent, he argued, and everything should be looked at in terms of how it is changing into something else.  Which leads us to one of his famous maxims:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

 An interesting notion, that.  Perhaps the same is true for bicycling.  Maybe it is not possible to ride the same route twice and therefore all that is required to prevent boredom is for the cyclist to gain a greater appreciation of that fact.  After all, when are two rides ever really the same?  There are different temperatures, winds, and precipitation.  The road conditions are often different, sometimes only minutely but different all the same.  There may be more/less traffic, greater/fewer pedestrians, or a different number of riding companions.  The cyclist is almost assuredly different – in weight, fitness level, clothing, ride goals, mood, or a host of other variables.  As I have discovered for the second time in three years, even the bike can be different, let alone the components on the same bike.

A lot can change, is what I am saying, and I believe grumpy old Heraclitus was onto something.  So without further ado, please allow me to submit my corollary to Heraclitus:

No cyclist ever rides the same road twice,  for it’s not the same road and he’s not the same cyclist.

I still very much enjoy a new adventure in the traditional sense.  I’ll always be looking for new rides, new events, and new ways to experience cycling (except, of course, for leg shaving).  Still, when necessity dictates I travel routes I have been on many times, I shall attempt to apply the lesson of Heraclitus and remember that I truly have never been on this ride before.

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19 thoughts on “Cycling And Philosophy, Part 2

  1. I’m with you and Heraclitus, Steve.

    Now that I always seem to be in training mode I find myself constantly on the same roads (because they’re close, or they have a certain profile, etc.) and, like many other cyclists, I get to thinking that it’s going to be boring before the ride. It never is! Now, I’m not sure if that is because Heraclitus was right, and the road and me are always changing, or just because riding a bike is just simply awesome!

    I look forward to your next installment of The Meaning of Bike soon.

  2. You are absolutely bang on with your thoughts as usual. Every ride is different no matter where you go. Drop and I have done the morning ride probably hundreds of times by now but it never palls. The only un-Heraclitean thing is the need to find different things to photograph every day. I’m not sure that I could pretend to myself that a different sheep snapped every day would be very interesting.

    • Enjoying the small nuances that make up a different experience don’t always translate well to the blog site, do they? This is why I have long-since abandoned attempting to make my weeknight rides a feature of the blog – they are nice but not full of new things. If something unusual pops up, I am happy to relate it, otherwise I simply adjust the odometer.

  3. I love to go on totally new rides, but I a agree, every time I ride it is an adventure. Right now everything around me has gone from dead and lifeless to leafy and green. It has been a joy to ride where ever I find myself. I don’t seem to tire of riding at the beach … ever. I ride the same roads every time. I think I just love being outdoors.

    Great post.

      • Steve, I hope I can build up to the heat of summer. Usually, I can ride more at the beach than home because of the breeze. We got our Kayaks today … so I will be taking some turns getting wet and cooled off before getting back on the bike again. :D

  4. I ride a rural limestone trail mostly, and have said I am tired of the same scene, but then there are these blue flowers I never noticed before, or a snake going across the path, or another cyclist who I stop and chat with, and alas, it’s a whole new day. well said.

  5. We are always tempted by pastures new, and there is nothing wrong with that. It maintains the cutting edge of our dreams. Travelling the world on two wheels is a powerful image. But……….don’t forget the diamonds in our own back yard. What we pass daily changes with how we view it.
    You’re a thinking roadie, Steve…..it’s good to have your thoughts.

  6. You have my vote for reading Heraclitus, and perhaps Sophocles even. Thanks … and don’t make us wait another 13 months! We never do, really, know what the road, or the side of it, or the sky above it, will offer up.

  7. You want the same ride but different every day? Try MTBing, no stone is ever in the same place twice, no puddle ever the same size, no leaf the same as the day before. It makes you think. The change is the challenge.

    Cycling really does prove Descartes point. Dubito ergo cogito; cogito ergo sum.

    Vive la difference.

    Very thought provoking Steve.

    • Look at us, two old soldiers speaking of dead Greeks and Frenchmen and speaking in foreign tongues. We need to be careful, lest we ruin the carefully cultivated imaged of the modern “neanderthal soldier!”

  8. I’m with you that each ride is different, but it ofen requires a deliberate mindfullness of your self and your environment to appreciate the differences. Coincidentally, this is something I have been working on as my daily commute tends toward a routine. You sort of scooped me with this post as I was brewing up a similar one myself.

    • Go with your post as planned and I will reply with great admiration for your work. Don’t worry – our secret will be between the two of us only.

  9. Pingback: Wisdom Speaks

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