Guest Post: Cycling and making sense of life

Another guest post by Robyn M Speed

Sometimes life is like biking into a never-ending headwind. Sometimes life is happening so fast and out of control that it’s like flying downhill, both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

The most important thing I have gained from cycling is therapy. When I am in the hills, there are very few people, and I have space to think. It’s like sometimes I can breathe better up there.

Life is not always easy, and sometimes I need some time out, sometimes I need to ride, to think, or to ride and not think…sometimes I just need to sort my sh*# out, and stop my mind going round and round. Cycling gives me that.

When I’m biking up a long, steep hill, I frequently tell myself ‘just keep pedalling’. And sometimes life is like that long, steep hill, and all we can do, is just keep going, just another turn of the cranks, just another step forward…just…keep…moving…forward.

People look at me, and think I’ve got life all figured out. I don’t. I can fake it really well. But I sometimes feel like the minute I think I understand life, it all turns to mist. What I have learned is: I don’t need to figure it all out.

I don’t need to have all the answers. And you know what else I don’t need? I don’t need to try to be all things to all people, so that they like me, so that they don’t get annoyed with me or disappointed in me, I don’t need to jump through someone else’s hoops just to please them. And do you know where I gained these understandings, this clarity? While I was biking in the hills. Me. My bike. And the road. Some days that is what I need, some days that is all I need.

When I come down off the hills – that ride that is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, especially when there is a strong wind blowing, threatening to take the bike out from under me – and into the suburban flat-lands, it is different. There is more traffic, and my concentration is more on watching the traffic, navigating, and keeping an eye on parked cars, dogs, traffic lights, and the peace and stillness is gone. Plus, sometimes I feel my mind becomes as busy as the road, and I have to take some time to just ‘chill out’ again as I pedal.

Before dawn

I always head out early for a bike ride, when the roads are quiet. All I am thinking about is riding, and feeling the bike moving beneath me. It’s peaceful, but by the time I am heading home, the roads are busy, everyone wanting to get somewhere, everyone impatient and in a hurry, as if they just want the day over and done with.

Cycling isn’t just about keeping fit, or getting from A to B, it’s about a state of health and well-being. Physical health as well as mental and emotional health, and – for people like me – spiritual health too. I need to move. We all need to move. Moving is the most pro-active thing we can do to help ourselves.

I admit that I do take my cell phone with me when biking. I take it for emergency contact, or rescue – should I need it! But most of all, it is my camera. I have seen sunrises and views so spellbinding that I immediately hit the brakes and stop! On one ride I know there is a bend that affords the most amazing view, and on many occasions I come round that bend and gasp ‘Oh my God,’ because what is before me is beyond words, held in the hands of magic itself… and it lasts for only minutes sometimes, and then it is gone, and no sunrise will ever be the same (the cell phone is great to take pictures, but one day I will buy myself a Sony RX100 to take with me – and trust that it can handle the ride in my pocket!). When I stop, and stand in the face of such magic, nothing else matters. I feel my heart melt and fall open, and suddenly I don’t care about anything else in the world. Yes, I could have stayed in bed, and slept in. I did not have to leave the house at 5.30am on my bike… but when I witness such magic, I am so very glad I did. The haul up Evans Pass is worth it, each and every time.


My appreciation of cycling changes as I myself change. I used to look upon it as pure fun, but after my experiences in the hills… they call to me every weekend, the balm for what often feels like a weary soul, and I go to them, and we spend time together, and afterwards… well… I just feel better, calmer, at peace, and yet exhilarated at the same time and I do not even know how that is possible. It just is.


And cycling helps.


13 thoughts on “Guest Post: Cycling and making sense of life”

  1. I’ve spent a bit of time biking on the roads this year, and I agree, the summit road is one of the best places to ride for fun. It has a “swoopy” quality absent down here on the flat.

    Contrast the Summit Road, with Tram Road or Old West Coast Road.

    Do riders in Wellington enjoy the third dimension (vertical) on their rides? Or is the emptiness of the port hills a factor too – in that there are no driveways, and very few parked or driving cars to be seen?

    1. Thank you so much for your comments, Criggie!! I love your phrase “a swoopy quality’ and you know what? You are SO RIGHT!!! And that swoopy quality brings a smile to my lips every time I am biking those hills.
      best regards

  2. Fantastic post. I agree with its sentiments. For me to have a really enjoyable ride I need 1) a challenge 2) variation 3) peace. Flat roads or trails & cars don’t give me the 3 things I need.

    1. Hi CP. There really is something different about the hills. When I come down to the flat it surprises me how much ‘mental noise’ invades my mind! The peace in the hills … love it!

  3. how beautifully written, thanks . It is all about what makes somewhere our ‘happy’ place. Separated cycleways in the futuure may not be everyone’s ‘happy place’ but comapred with some of the roads at present they will certainly be a ‘much improved’ space for many who ride a to b , and many who are yet to give it a try .

  4. Hi rob5chch6 … Thank you so much! The hills are definitely my happy place, but then again within five minutes of heading off on my bike I am already happy (mind you it is early morning and there is very little traffic, so that probably plays a big part). I agree about the cycleways. Many people will love them, and they will be awesome for getting a to b … but for people like me (and there are many) who like to go FAST, a cycleway is a bit of a nana-lane!

    1. LOL. I do enjoying seeing the basket bikes cruising along & really hope they encourage more tolerance from motorists however yes, they’re nana bikes & get in my way when I’m wanting to go A to B at my natural faster than average pace.

      1. I want to see more people biking. But, like you, I also want to be able to go fast if I feel like it, There’s little point having a racing bike if you can’t crank out a good pace for sheer fun of it! I wonder if people realise there are two types of cycling: FAST and cruuuise?

      2. My opinion is modern city planners expect all cycle commuters to be very similar speed as that’s the norm in places like Netherlands. However kiwi cyclists are used to freedom to travel at whatever speed, between nana cruise & commuter racing. We’re also far less tolerant & less respectful of other road users. Having spent a few years living in UK I can say NZ motorists & cyclists are dreadful in the way we treat other road users. Merging, indicating, giving way, stop sings, red lights, etc

      3. Totally agree!! (Not that I have cycled in the UK!) I try to be the most polite considerate cyclist I can possible be, and I guess I consider myself as a representative of the cycling community whenever I am out on my bike. I wave my thanks, give a thumbs up to drivers, let them pass, pull over if I need to … and always make my intentions very clear. Hard to believe that when my mother was a teenager that come 5 pm the streets were a sea of cycles … we are the perfect cycling city. 🙂

      4. If fuel prices jumped upwards, or fuel rationed for some reason, it would happen again. At the moment being lazy is relatively affordable

      5. That applies to transport.
        With food it’s “being a lazy eater is more affordable”
        But just like cycling, a little effort makes a big difference. Learning cooking skills, vege garden, planning meals, using leftovers & not discarding, etc

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