Amongst friends, co-workers and family there’s been a lot of talk lately about getting old. Arthritic hips. Aching knees. Tweaked backs. Fading eyesight… The list goes on, and it’s less than inspirational.

Now, I can’t in good conscious say that there are parts of me that haven’t been affected by the years going by, but I think there’s something about riding a bike that keeps you a little younger at heart, body and mind than everybody else.

As people get older I think they have a tendency to move past certain activities. I can’t really say why. With cycling specifically, perhaps it’s because they view it as childish, something only the young do – Without realizing that reason is precisely why they should embrace it.

As I reflected on 2012, I noted how much cycling had given me. It made me think of what cycling offers everybody and the benefits are pretty wide and deep – I pulled together a list. It’s just five things. But, to me, they’re big:

  • It keeps your mind young – Riding a bike is like play. Sometimes you just let the bike roll so your imagination wander, other times you inject your imagination into the ride… Trying a new line on your favourite piece of single track, deliberately trying to get lost in your own city to experience something new, or even planning a new route for you and your buddies to hit a number of select coffee (or gelato) stops :-)
  • It forces you to be in tune with your body – Because of it’s repetitive nature, when things are off you know it – and you’re inclined to do something about it. Using a body that works properly is much more enjoyable than one that’s broken. Just like any machine, with use, maintenance is required. Your body is no different. There are many ways to ensure everything is operating at it’s best (yoga, ART, foam roller, massage, etc.), it’s up to you to determine what the best solution is for you. Eventually you learn to know the warning signs and can proactively stave off more serious injury in most cases.
  • It gives you perspective – Perhaps not global perspective, or perspective into others lives… But it does give you perspective into how easy travel is in modern day. Ask most people how long their commute is and chances are they won’t know… They’ll know how long it takes, but not the distance. Ask most cyclists and they’ll know exactly. You know what a kilometre is going to take out of you. You have an idea how much 30k is going to burn on a really hot day, a cold day and a windy day. Then when you hop do in your car, or on the train, frustration doesn’t come quite as readily – you understand just how easy it is to sit down, listen to some tunes and let the wave of traffic take you where it may.
  • It forces you to eat better – When you sit on your ass all day, a sub-par diet doesn’t always have a discernible impact (though there’s a very discernible impact to your body, day to day you generally don’t feel it) – But if you’re commuting daily, or regularly active, a few days of binging will definitely have you feeling sub-optimal, it’s a noticeable difference. Being in-tune with your body, digestion and how real food affects your body, your mind and your energy levels is a wonderful thing.
  • It opens your eyes – Put yourself behind a wheel, or in front of a computer all day and it’s all too easy to develop tunnel vision – The same is possible on the bike I suppose, but many times it’s difficult to ignore the beauty, or interest that nature puts before you… Be it a family of ducks attempting to cross the path in front of you, watching the hues of purple, orange and blue of the sun rising, or simply feeling your heart beat as you work to get your ass up a hill. It’s a nice feeling… I think it’s called being alive.

So go for a ride, it may just give you a little extra clarity and perspective while lower your blood pressure at the same time ;-)