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.
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.