The Science of Cycling

This title is rather a tease because although I have years of science both in University and in the field, I don’t think that science belongs in cycling.

That’s not totally true, either. I do think that science–especially hard science–has its place in cycling, but it’s a limited one.

To paraphrase one of my inspirations, the environment affects how we cycle. It’s more than just velocities and distances. Aside from muscle memory and reflexes, we also use more subtle cues to decide how to ride.

Or should I say that subtle cues influence us more than most of us would like to admit.

A good example of this is how differently people treat me on Fairmount Road (the highway) depending on which merge I’m at.

Pretty much the same people drive the whole stretch of it–you can’t get off–so the sample is pretty even. But how I am treated differs greatly depending on if I am merging onto Fairmount from Camino De La Reina or whether I am passing another merge further down.

Why are people nice in one case and not in another? The only thing that differs is subtle cues in the road.

Few of these cues will show up on a blueprint for a road. And I if there’s a way to determine, mathematically, how people are going to respond to a certain road stimulus, I am unfamiliar with it.

This is why, when discussing my experiences, I use feeling based and gut based terms. In fact, sometimes when I ride, I don’t think at all, I rely on instinct; I’m an unthinking cyclist. I feel that when I think the least, I’m on my cycling game the most.

Probably better than being an uncycling thinker… 🙂

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2 Responses to “The Science of Cycling”

  1. Aaron Garland Says:

    I cycle the same way and find that it works well most of the time. However it is important to keep your emotions in check. The time I was hit by the car on Balboa I was listening to a song that got my adrenalin pumping. I was obeying all traffic laws, but taking more risk by merging with high speed traffic. I think that emotions affecting driving behavior is pretty common, and can cause either over thinking or under thinking.

    • Fred Says:

      Apparently, “Ride of the Valkeries” by Wagner is the #1 song to cause accidents. 🙂

      I do agree about accidents. Right before almost any accident, I somehow lose my emotional grip.

      This is why I suggest some kind of mindfulness during cycling.

      I hear ppl say they drove home and don’t recall it. I never biked somewhere and forgot about it immediately. Not once.

      I’d be scared if that happened.

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