First off, a little bit about me. I am a (I guess I better admit it) a middle-aged guy living in Portland, OR. I currently work as a social worker at a psychiatric hospital and have worked in this field for over ten years. I am originally from Billings, MT and moved to wonderful Portland about 5 years ago and love it. Like everything else, it has its good and not so good points. What I do like is the city itself is friendly for the 13th largest metropolitan area and I do like the weather here. Now, you may be scratching your head at that considering all the clouds and rain, but I am not a fan of extreme hot or cold. And, thankfully Portland gets very little of that.
I also like how the city is friendly towards bicycling. Now, there are those that live here that really don't like the fact that I ride a lot and feel cyclist in general are a bunch of hipster, scofflaw types that do not think the same rules of the road apply to them. But, the truth is, there are a handful of people this this. The large majority of the cyclists in this town really do follow the rules and ride with skill.
Cycling is something that has always been part of my life, although I did have long spells where my bike sat idle with flat tires for years. When I was a kid, I raced BMX and rode just about everywhere. To the mall, to school, to the store to get grocery's for my Mother. However, when I turned the driving age and got my first car, I quit biking. Maybe I thought that if I rode a bike, that would give people the idea that I do not (gasp!!!) have a driver's license. I remember taking my birthday money when I turned 21 and bought a used mountain bike. I rode it around a bit, but not very much.
That changed after I spent a year in Portland. I was back in Billings for my sister's wedding reception and decided it was time to get the thing in motion again. I took the wheel off and shoved it in the back of my car. The year before, I had underwent back surgery to repair a herniated (L4, L5) disk in my back. I could not work out like I used to and was attending grad school so did not really have the funds to do it. While the surgery was successful, I did have a few lingering things. My left quad had a constant buzzing sensation. It didn't hurt, but it was not all the comfortable and certainly was annoying. I also felt week in the low back where the surgeon had to go through the muscle. But, after a few weeks in the saddle, I noticed this go away and when I moved closer to town, bicycling started to become a little more of a mode of transportation that simply a form of exercise.
Sure, the rain here has often put me in the car more. It took me a while to get some fenders and rain gear. But, slowly I am becoming more and more of a full time cyclist.
I decision to title this blog The Mindful Cyclist came from my professional career. Two years ago, I took a position working as a Dialectical Behavior Therapy clinician. While I will not go into the complexities of DBT, one of the things that it talks about is mindfulness. It is a therapy that stresses being mindful and doing one thing at a time and putting your focus on this. One of the things we ask clients to identify is an activity that they feel they can be very mindful doing as a way to unwind and clear the mind. This was example. When I ride, I am focused on one thing. I don't think about other things because if I did, I would increase the chance that I would end up on the hood of a car.
I focus on the noise around me. I look at the rear view mirror of each car before I pass it to make sure no one is in it and about ready to open the car door in front of me. I focus on the road so I can avoid (or brace myself) for the oncoming potholes. I focus on my breathing to increase my efficiency. I check to see if I am spinning my pedals or if I am mashing on them. I am not thinking about work. I am not thinking about dinner. I am not thinking about much of anything else.
While I probably will focus a lot about cycling on this blog, I am certainly going to talk about other things. I will talk about careers, politics, and many other things. I do get some questions from friends on Facebook about bike related stuff, and I will often try to write blogs about bike commuting, repair, and culture.