The Six Senses of Cycling

John Denver said a night in the forest would fill up one's senses, but I don't need to go that far or get that high. I'll just get on my bike and right at night. It's exhilarating and fills more senses than that forest, but not more than whatever John was smoking.


This is the sense most that most people rely on. On a bike, it's actually kind of boring usually. We see most of these same sights from the seats of our cars as a matter of course. But cycling has made me seek out new places to ride to and through, and so in that way, there is a heightened sense of sight.


This is one that cyclists truly rely on. We use our ears to hear the traffic, the gears, the tires, and of course the wind through our helmet straps. We diagnose problems in the derailleur with our ears and listen to the cadence of our breath as we climb in our lowest gear for what appears to be hours but is usually minutes. Sigh.


To most new cyclists the sense of touch is usually associated with taint pain. I get that. I mean I got that. A long time ago. It goes away quickly with consistent riding. I'm talking about the feel of your hands sliding in the gloves and over the hoods. The feeling of the pedals and tires doing their jobs well. Those touches. We need them to diagnose mechanical problems and to feel the wind and occasional bug in our faces. Cycling really is a sensory feast at times.


Hopefully the only smells one encounters while cycling are from the fields and forests and cities around. The occasional whiff of cedar mulch or cow shit is welcomed even when it's too strong because this is cycling and driving only gives you Cherry Bomb and New Car Scent.


The taste of cycling is found in the sweet coolness of the water bottle and the bite of energy bar or PB&J. Bananas are perfect too. On long rides beer provides calories and a little zing for the second half, the harder half. Saltiness, of course, is a taste to become accustomed to if you want to ride. After a long ride my face can be panko crusted in white salt.

The Mystery Sense

This is a visceral scense wrought in failure and humility. This is the sense that says, Chris, you're gonna crush that hill today. And the even more common, Chris, you gotta drop some weight. I first started developing my cycling sense when I bonked climbing Mt. Hamilton in San Jose. I later conquered it, but only because I learned the proper cadence and to pace myself. No really, pace yourself, that's my best advice for continual riding. Eventaully, my cycling sense sharpened and sharpened, and when I ride, it's accurate. When I don't it's not. It's best to keep it honed. That's good advice too.