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Some things are universal. A universal mindset that recommends the motorcar as a replacement for our legs, a universal mindset that medical doctors ‘know best’, that qualifications are a fool-proof measure of intelligence, that we really do need to earn $300k plus a year to be happy, that football is an entertaining pursuit for the post-Neanderthal generations…

I have another one. This is for those already on the inside of the cycling promised land. That it’s always a struggle to find time for riding. Get together with any group of fellow-bicyclists and you will hear the complaint: ‘I need to ride more but never seem to get the time’. How often do you hear non-professional cyclists complaining about ‘too much’ riding? It’s always ‘never enough’.

I love to watch the games we play under the direction – if not dictatorship – of the mental models of our minds. Watching your own mental models is a bit like watching yourself from a mirror. It’s hard to see past the reflection of the vision we self-project. Remember Arnie Schwarzenegger in Total Recall? That’s the one where our hero took a holiday from himself to become a spy to unravel the intrigues of subterranean Mars. That’s what taking on a different mental model is like: taking a holiday from yourself.

So if the person you are insists that you never get time for a ride, why not take a holiday from yourself and become someone who does make time? Perhaps in that other parallel universe the reasons you currently cite for accumulating frustration instead of miles might simply cease to exist. Putting it all another way: are you SURE you can’t find the time to ride? Or is that your inner-dictator mental model trying to strangle your fun?

Now the universal first response to questions such as these is this: ‘I don’t have a mental model’ and ‘what you say simply does not apply to me’. That’s basically the same logic we might use to claim that ‘global warming is caused by everyone else but me’; that it’s always them, the other folk out there, who do bad things. ‘My issues that prevent me from riding are real’. ‘I can’t possibly change the way things are’. Sieg Heil!

Here’s how I did a coup on my own inner Fascist-In-Charge.

Work and cycling, were, for me, different spaces within my mind. Work was work and riding was something I did for fun. Work is not fun and fun stays at home… I didn’t ride to work. The commute was 60km (about 40 miles). 60 km in a car seems like such a long way. 60km by bike is… Hey! wait a minute. I do 100km rides on weekends and that is OK. I did 250km rides in my serious training days… I CAN ride 60km. But not to work. Why not? Because… See what I mean by mental models? So I rode. Once. It was a bit like going off to Mars. This was cycling of a different, new, kind. I did it again. I did it for a week. I did it for two weeks. Then it became routine. My mental model admitted a new culture of riding to work as a normal thing to do. Then, in that new world, I had the occasion to drive to work. Now that felt wrong. Bad. Ugly. The essence of giving in. Defeat. Never again…

The key point is that to transcend one mental model to the other will indeed seem like a change of life. But, and there’s the thing. You DO get used to life on the other side. And life on that other side can actually be far better! I suspect that all the excuses we make to stick with the models of life we currently lead is to do with our fear of the unknown; a fear of leaving the familiarities of life as it is currently lived. A bit like heading off in a boat when we all used to believe the world was flat; and fringed by this dirty great waterfall…

So I made time to ride through riding to work. But that’s not all. No, not even by half.

The ‘V’ shaped channel of my life had excluded time before 7am. ‘Ha!’ I hear you say… ‘I knew that was coming.’ You are now reacting just like the old me. ‘You’re not going to recommend rising at dawn…to ride – are you?’ That’s not for me! Not according to the mental model that tells me life starts each day at 8. You’ve seen them out on the road when the exigencies of work demand an early flight or that early early trip by car. Flashing-lighted cyclists riding the tragedy of their fate in the cold misery of dawn. The tragedy you attribute is the attribution of your dawn-excluding mental model. To see things in any other light is to take another trip up the hill of the mental model range that blinkers all our minds. You can’t see life on the other side until you climb that range. Climbing is so very hard; the hardest thing that many of us will ever do. I am not going to disguise that fact. But once you stand on top of Great Dividing Range of your mind, the views can reveal a life to be lived that you might never have imagined could be yours to have!. Those dawn rides are, simply, magic. Tragic are they who perceive what it is you do as a tragedy of being out of bed.

That’s two mental model shifts I’ve taken to shift from a casual tinkerer with cycling to become a real life-cycling cyclist for real. The shifts were hard; the excuses were palpably real. But as any mountain climber will tell, once you make the climb, life is never the same again. That’s how we can all make time for cycling. By re-inventing the lives we live to live a life of a more active, fulfilling, environmentally resilient kind.


Speaking of changes… I am sure you won’t mind me giving my new ‘other’ blog a plug. Some of you were readers of my environmental blog: EnviroBlog. I discontinued that blog yesterday after two years of regular posts. I have decided to consolidate all my interests more completely via a new web space that I’ve modestly named Attached to that site is my brand new blog called PhotoEssays. PhotoEssays is the second generation of EnviroBlog. It’s a place to combine my environmental ponderings with my passion for environmentally-focused photo image making. I’d be more than curious to hear what you think! There’s already a couple of posts there to read (the latest is an essay on how religion appears to profoundly un-religious types such as me…)

Naturally, and this bicyclism blog remain unchanged. Like Enviroblog before it, PhotoEssays is to be my ‘other’ blog.

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