Still “Going Down Hill on a Bicycle”
By Tony Boone
In 1895, Henry Charles Beeching penned a poem accurately describing why so many of us absolutely adore riding our bikes and feel it is paramount to our quality of life.
A Boy’s Song
With lifted feet, hands still,
I am poised, and down the hill
Dart, with heedful mind;
The air goes by in a wind.
Swifter and yet more swift,
Till the heart with a mighty lift
Makes the lungs laugh, the throat cry:—
“O bird, see; see, bird, I fly.
“Is this, is this your joy?
O bird, then I, though a boy,
For a golden moment share
Your feathery life in air!”
Say, heart, is there aught like this
In a world that is full of bliss?
‘Tis more than skating, bound
Steel-shod to the level ground.
Speed slackens now, I float
Awhile in my airy boat;
Till, when the wheels scarce crawl,
My feet to the treadles fall.
Alas, that the longest hill
Must end in a vale; but still,
Who climbs with toil, wheresoe’er,
Shall find wings waiting there.
The feels of flow ridin’
Amazing feelings and sensations abound when we ride our bikes, especially on trails that immerse us deep into nature. This “fun factor” as it is often called is now being designed and engineered into trails around the globe at a increasing pace, and riders of all ages and abilities are stoked!
A mere 20 years ago, one of my clients was scolding me for building a new trail that was “way to fuckin’ twisty and rolly!” lolol. Now the majority of bids are actually requesting “twisty and rolly” flavored trails, or “flow trails” as coined by our MtB industry, for better or worse. I kinda prefer “vlo country” like [Swiss pro] Hans Rey pronounces it. His description is also spot on, “a mix between a bike park, a cross country trail and a long pump track”.
The word “flow” means many things in today’s world and is used in many aspects of our lives– riding our bikes, cooking dinner, or getting into our careers. Continually flowing and moving forward, smoothly and rhythmically, is undoubtedly a positive feeling that many of us seek out in life.
Digging in a bit deeper, flow can be scientifically described as “kinesthetic diversity”. The term kinesthetic relates to learning through the sense of body position, muscle movement and weight as felt through our nerve sensory proprioception. Nerve sense proprioception is one of our sixth senses. This vital, primal sensation of our body’s position and movement through space and time is sensed through nerves in our connective tissues (ligaments, fascia, 200+ bones and 300+ muscles).
Now lets think about the chemicals released into our bodies during a back country trail ride. Eustress, or beneficial stress, is the stress associated with our chosen challenge, our outdoor adventure pursuit of choice. Often mine revolve around mountain biking, rock climbing, and snowboarding. These activities are the modes I prefer to harness eustress into increased physical performance, keener focus, and ultimately my spiritual connection to Mother Earth.
During periods of eustress, our hypothalamus and sympathetic nervous system stimulate our adrenal medulla to secrete two catecholamines– epinephrine (adrenalin) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline)– into our bloodstream. This is part of our “fight or flight” response, preparing us for what lies ahead: dropping in! Increased cardiac output sends more blood to our hypoxic muscles. Our intestines slow so we don’t crap our pants. Blood vessel constrict in skin so we don’t bleed to death, and use our lungs more fully. We feel excited and stimulated. Damn, I love that feeling: heart pounding, profusely sweating, totally out-of-my-gourd high on catecholamines! Of course as with most things in life, its important to come back down to normal chemical levels after a eustress event so that it does not move into the distress category.
Ironically “Flow” is also described under the Wikipedia page defining “Eustress”. It states, “When an individual appraises a situation as stressful, they add the label for distress or eustress. If a situation induces eustress, the person may feel motivated and can experience flow. Positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, created this concept which is described as ‘one completely absorbed into an enjoyable activity with no awareness of surroundings.’ Flow is an extremely productive state in which an individual experiences their prime performance. Flow is the ultimate eustress experience – the epitome of eustress. Flow is considered a peak experience or the single most joyous, happiest, most blissful moment of your life.”
Now thinking back the Henry’s poem, “A Boy’s Song”…..wtf? As a father of three girls, let us not get hung up on the “boy’s” part cuz it ain’t just a boy thing, nor was it ever; girls & women of all ages can dig riding bikes just as much as dudes, they’re just not as big of Stravassholes…….
Tony Boone of Tony Boone Trails | Peace on Dirt has been riding and trail blazing since 1983. TBT teachees trail design and volunteer-builds with nonprofits and communities around the globe, with a strong focus on innovation, sustainability and stewardship. They build trails for a multitude of user- experiences, not just biking. Since the Tom Blake Trail in 1997, Tony has led crews in sculpting 23 trails in the Roaring Fork Valley totaling 35 miles of trail. In the past two years, his talented crews have sculpted the Seven Star Trail, Discovery Climbing Trail, Buckhorn Traverse, Buckhorn Reroute, and numerous private trails totaling 15 miles. By the way? Snowmass’s Seven Star saw 4500+ riders in less than twenty days! Thrill out on Box O’ Rox , Lakewood, Colorado.