What do you think about? - CycleBlaze

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What do you think about?

Brent Irvine

We all love cycle touring, I'm pretty certain! Some days are great and some not so much, but overall, I think when we complete the tour, we think, "Wow, that was great!"

Those are my post-ride musings, but, while on the road, what is going through your mind and what are your thoughts? That you are so lucky to be here? That you hope another spoke doesn't break? Wondering about where to sleep that night?

I just completed a short tour in southern Ontario a couple of weeks ago, and while on the bike, I just kept smiling outwardly and thinking about how happy I was to be on tour again, and how lucky to be able to roll along day after day. There were the occasional gripes about my butt getting tender, but not a lot. I primarily was just thinking... happiness.

What is your mind mulling over while you are on the bike during a tour?

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1 year ago
Wayne EstesTo Brent Irvine

Great question and great topic. I think I could better answer your question by saying what I do NOT think about. I try my best to not think about home or current events. I stay in motels but never turn on the television.

During bike tours I consciously try to immerse my mind in the local surroundings and shut out the rest of the world. It's much easier to do this when traveling solo. When traveling in a group, it's very easy to let group interactions distract your mind from the here and now of the tour route.

10 years ago I went on a bus tour in Costa Rica with my father. My first time to do that. At dinner I was shocked to discover that the ONLY topic of conversation was "home". Nobody talked about what they saw and did that day. I found that kind of detached mindset to be very strange. Why go to Costa Rica if you're thinking about home 24 hours a day?

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1 year ago
Keith KleinTo Brent Irvine

Hi Brent,

I like to watch for wildlife. Spotting a rare bird or a large wild animal like an Ibex for example can cause me to go right off the road. I also look at local architecture and scenery and think about how much I like it or not and how it is different from home. I think about my family. I work on math puzzles in my head ( which I rarely solve) and when I get “bored” I try to remember all the Departments in France in alphabetical / numerical order. (Ain, Aisne, Allier, Alps (haute), Alps de haute Provence, etc. …Yonne, Territoire de Belfort) . I try to remember phrases in some foreign language ( gdeyeh twalyetti or where’s the loo in Russian). And of course I think about what I might find for supper. 

I’m pretty much a loner on the road, but whenever possible I like to stop and chat with the locals, often servers in restaurants. I visit the “sights” and I think about them. I think about the roads I am on. How old are they? Who built them?

But I don’t think about politics, or pestilence, or war. Touring is for escaping all that after all.



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1 year ago
Keith KleinTo Wayne Estes

Hi Wayne, 

I agree with you in very large part. See my answer to Brent. I do have some thoughts on group travel, though, having once led cycling tours here in France. I think there are several reasons people chose a guided tour over going alone. First, they want the security of having everything arranged, so they don’t have to work at making an itinerary, or finding lodging. There is also a fear of not seeing all the expected sights, so they like to have someone to shepherd them into the right spots. But most of all I saw a real fear of interacting with people who don’t speak their language or who might not have the “right” cultural habits. A lot of my clients came to France to “check one off the list” not that they had any interest in my country, but their friends back home would be impressed. Many of them chose the delux tours I led to show off their money, not to actually see something. I sound cynical, and there were some great guests who wanted to learn as much history and culture as they could but wanted a translator, but these folks were in the minority.

And after the days touring, all they could talk about was home. I suspect that they learned very little, or very little that stuck with them. But that is the fate of most tourists. They go on cruises so they can get exactly what they expected, and there was no effort required. 

Bike travellers are different. We’ve hosted a few here and they talk about their experiences on the road. But I don’t need to tell you. That’s why you are on this site!



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1 year ago
Gregory GarceauTo Brent Irvine

I think it's safe to say that my mind is all over the place while pedaling.  Sometimes I can't even finish a thought without moving on to the next one.  For some reason, almost every day I see something that reminds me of a song.  Then I think about the song, sing or hum it for a while, and it becomes an earworm.

On longer days, I get fixated on the mileage signs along the highway.  I don't carry a bike computer, so I use those signs to tell me how far I have to go to get to my next destination.   Sometimes I swear at how long it takes to get from (for example) mile 265 to mile 266.

Speaking of swearing, I mentally swear quite a bit while on tour.  Thank goodness I don't vocalize some of the nasty words I have in my mind for certain motorists or hills or winds or rain.

Of course I'm always thinking about what I'm looking at (and when I'm exploring new territory on my bike I like almost EVERYTHING I'm looking at.) 

I must admit that sometimes I spend too much time thinking about how I'm going to describe what I've seen, or how I'm going to tell an interesting story about a rare encounter with other people.  One of my favorite parts of cycle-touring is writing about my experiences at the end of every day.

Like the two previous responders, I'm not distracted from my thoughts by other riders.  That's just one of the reasons I like touring alone.

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1 year ago
John PescatoreTo Brent Irvine

For me it is very dependent on the road and conditions.

On those really crappy roads that I had no choice and just had to use to get from point A to point B (Rt. 17 in central FL comes to mind) I'm pretty occupied splitting time looking in my bar end mirror to see how close to my left ear the next 80 MPH RV will be and looking at ahead to see if there is still a shoulder or is it time to swerve to avoid road kill/rumble strip/blown truck tire/etc. 

Then there is the weather avoidance days where I'm trying to beat a storm or the heat. Then I'm pretty much occupied with Estimated Time of Arrival math updates in my head and determining if I've got a bail out point.

I hate riding in rain. When that happens I'm pretty much just in a black cloud of internal grumbling and thinking "Bike touring is stupid. Not only do you get wet but you go so slow you get wetter. I knew I should have put the fenders on for this trip - it never rains when I do that. The sky looks even darker ahead."

Then there is those days or segments when the road is good, the traffic is light and the weather is at least not an issue.  One of the bike racers (Greg Lemond?) said "When things are going right on a bike, it feels like the chain has fallen off, your feet are spinning effortlessly." Then, my thought are pretty much on three things:

  1. The nature around me. What kind of flower/tree is that? That tree is going to fall on that house in the next storm. Is that an eagle? Nope, just another turkey vulture. This is a "R" roadkill ride: racoon, rabbit, random rodent or an "S" month - snakes, squirrels, sparrows, etc. 
  2. When the day's ride is going well, I always seem to get some up-tempo song stuck in my head, like "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch" or "Brandy, You're a Fine Girl" and I don't really know the lyrics so I make them up and continually change them. As soon as I get off the bike, the ear worm goes away.
  3. I keep a running mental total of the top item littering up the road. USB charging cords seemed to have replaced bungee cords on most of my rides, but on one stretch in Florida (not counting oranges and sweet potatoes), I saw several small metal combination safes in the grass just to the right of the shoulder. I actually stopped and they were locked up but seemed like something might be inside. Saw a few more later on - someone told me they thought that was house (or motel) thieves tossing them out the windows of their car after the burgled a house, but not sure I buy that.
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1 year ago
Lyle McLeodTo John Pescatore


I think I can just cut-and-paste your post … but that would be unethical!

I would substitute Hwy 17 on the north shore of Lake Huron for your central Florida version and neither Kirsten or I ‘hate’ riding in the rain (maybe because we lived in Scotland for an extended period?), but we prefer not to.

The rest is spot-on though. Our roadside detritus  leader board still has bungee cords firmly in first place.

Three cheers for no-chain pedalling!

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1 year ago
Scott AndersonTo John Pescatore

Thank you, John.  I read this out loud to Rachael just now and we spent five minutes in nonstop laughter.

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1 year ago
Graham SmithTo Brent Irvine

I try, but usually fail, not to think about much at all. Ideally I like to try and zone out when cycling. I think ‘mindfulness’ is one of the current buzzwords for trying to achieve a restful state of mind instead of having thoughts ricocheting around at random. Think about thinking with the aim of calming one’s thinking is the theory.

The reality of course is that numerous road hazards require constant problem solving, or this mindful, zen road warrior would end up decorating the bull bar of a road train or entangled in road debris. The real world of cycle touring on the open road can be akin to charging out of the trenches into a war zone. Rarely can the brain snap into a lotus position and relax while cycle touring. It’s more often in the fight or flight mode.

 Here are few pics of thought provoking trucks from my most recent tour.

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1 year ago
Paul MulveyTo Brent Irvine

Most days I have a song stuck in my head - sometimes it the 80's, sometimes the 70's, and sometimes it's just a catchy pop song that happened to be playing in the diner where I bought my breakfast. 

I'll think of limericks as I pedal along. Which one best captures the day's events and is good enough to post on my journal? If I have several I'll create a face-off between the two or if more there's a "March Madness" competition to see which limerick in which bracket ultimately wins the overall competition. By the time I finish I either forget the original rhyming scheme or come up with something entirely new.

When facing an annoying headwind, or a long climb, I'll swear internally. My go-to is normally MFer, just because it start out my thought about what I'm going through.

"Rain, why did it have to rain?" is another thought. Especially last tour in New England when there were TWO, yes TWO Nor'easters that rolled through in the space of a week and dumped rain all over the coast. Where I was touring. I used my go-to internal swear word.

Mostly though I just really enjoy spinning along and looking at the scenery. And feel incredibly happy that the only thing I have to worry about is finding someplace to eat. I get into the eat, ride, sleep, repeat pattern and just really enjoy the heck out of it.

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1 year ago