The Inspiration for ‘Ride Action is Right Action’

It started with tattoo research, really. I was thinking about getting a tattoo of the Chinese characters (because those aren’t cliché at all, right?) for the Buddhist* Precept of either ‘Right Action’ or ‘Right Effort’ – so I was reading up on the difference between the two. The word action just sounded better than effort to me, even though it was a bit weird and specific. There’s tons of variations and translations out there of the Precepts but here is the one I found that seemed to encompass the general idea of most of them:

“RIGHT ACTION: Right action aims at promoting moral, honorable, and peaceful conduct. It admonishes us that we should abstain from destroying life, from stealing, from dishonest dealings, from illegitimate sexual intercourse, and that we should also help others to lead a peaceful and honorable life in the right way.”

So uh, yeah – that’s all good – if not a bit strange. As it relates to the CABC I guess you could apply that to say we shouldn’t steal bikes or in any way have illegitimate sex on them, but really, if you can pull off sex on a bike, my hat’s off to you. What I took the most to heart was the last part that said “we should help others to lead a peaceful and honorable life in the right way.” That was some action I thought we could apply here.

You could think of riding a bike as selfish or solitary endeavor, but let’s break down for a minute what happens on a lot of bike rides. You have your rhythmic spinning of the pedals and wheels. A floating sensation when coasting. Drifting to and fro as the terrain permits. It can be very meditative. Or maybe you’re out hammering – the singular focus of maintaining your target effort in the face of difficulty or suffering has the ability to focus your mind singularly.

Either way, you’re changing your mind. 

You’ll come out of the ride with a different – arguably improved – attitude. In improving your state of mind and attitude you are changing how you perceive and interact with others. That has the ripple effect. In simple terms, change yourself to change the world – we hear this all the time in various ways. Maybe the change today starts with a bike ride. And maybe, if you can improve your outlook, it will help your interaction with others, and in-turn inspire, inform or improve theirs. You can go for a bike ride for yourself and “help others to lead a peaceful and honorable life in the right way.” Ride Action is Right Action.

Bruce Lee talked about this idea of self-improvement through action. In his book Striking Thoughts he comments, “Action is a highroad to self-confidence and esteem. Where it is open, all energies flow toward it. It comes readily to most people, and its rewards are tangible.” The rewards of a bike ride are tangible – for you as well as others.

I never decided on a tattoo. I couldn’t decide between Right Action and Right Effort. The visual geek in me got bogged down in how the characters looked and I started to loose the meaning behind them. Truth be told, from what I can understand, Right Effort is more internal – it’s about the efforts and energies you allow to arise within you. No doubt these are important as well, but when I’m riding bikes, that’s ACTION, baby. I’m DOING THE THING.

So get out there change yourself and change the World. It’s as easy as riding a bike.

*The CABC is entirely non-denominational. You do your thing and let the next person do their thing. Better yet, go on a bike ride with a bunch of people into different things than you and talk about things. I’ll bet you a CABC water bottle (which don’t exist yet) you learn something new.

When I Run, I Run Ugly

I’ve been riding bikes so long it’s easy. I don’t mean easy like I go out and crush Tour stages easy, but 99% – well, ok, maybe 85-90% of the time, when I’m suffering on the bike, I can find a way to make it work. I’m comfortable enough to find a way to get as much efficient power as I can, even if I’m barely moving, and keep from completely blowing up. I can ‘suffer comfortably’. I can ‘settle’ and know that mechanically, I’m doing the right thing, the best I can. When I run, it’s a gong show.

It sounds very ‘Bruce Lee’, but my ‘run technique’ is the presence of a complete lack of any fixed technique. That might imply a vision of fluidity, but it’s anything but. When I run, it’s a complete assault on my body – and mind. Everything is jarring and angular. Everything shakes and jiggles, including a lot that shouldn’t. There’s no ‘flow’. I plod. I lurch. I stumble. It’s like my feet are in a 4th grade playground fight with the Earth and are punching the ground. Every piece of advice I’ve been given and and every article I’ve read about running are simultaneously running through my mind like the images of violence flashing in front of our humble narrator Alex undergoing the Ludovico Technique. I can go for a 5k run and try 7 different versions of what I ‘think’ should be ‘running,’ all the while chastising myself that, really, as a species, we’ve been running since the dawn of time, so how is it possible for me to screw it up so badly.

I don’t know why I run. I tell myself – and other people sometimes – that it’s for the cross-training, the variety, sometimes I even lie and say I enjoy it. I think, really, it’s because it’s the quickest way for me to get uncomfortable. I can go for ‘bike rides’ and phone them in. I can cruise, spin and still maintain a pretty good pace over considerable distance without doing much ‘work’ – and sometimes it’s easy to fall back into that trap. Running, within 15 feet of the end of my driveway, I am positively miserable. And by that I mean, miserable in the best possible way. I know that I’m doing something I don’t really want to be doing – but doing it anyway. Unlike some other folks, I don’t need to go run a 100k desert ultra to ‘push myself out of my comfort zone’. I can do that handily within a 10k radius of my house. I hate to quote him here, but I think it was Lance who when asked why he liked to push himself so hard on the bike replied, “because it feels good when I stop.” There have been times when I’ve run on a pretty regular basis and have had periods where I started to feel somewhat confident and almost achieved the state I can so easily settle into on the bike, but for the most part I run so I can get it over with. For the feeling of accomplishment of having put myself through it and come out the other side. It’s kinda like Fight Club but with less bruising and cuts. I run for growth I guess, even if, during, it seems like I’m stunting it.