I was once privileged to be a support driver for the Herald Sun Tour. On one of the rest days I had a long chat with a “retired” cyclist who had competed at a very high level in Europe. He had not been able to afford a TV or other entertainment so he went and joined the local library.
The more he read the better he rode. He put it down to being able to sustain an intense level of concentration for long periods. It seemed that the greater comprehension he gained, the better he performed at all levels.
The advice I received about reading to increase attention span got me thinking about the number of cyclists we see listening to MP3 players.
Many of us are guilty of short attention spans. We fill our minds with all shorts of mind gymnastics and distractions, and music is one of the main ones. We wake up with music and we drive with music, we have something on the back ground nearly all the time. We lessen our concentration span all the time and become more dependant on being entertained.
Riding a bike for long distances or at high intensity requires you to keep your mind on the job. You have to think about what you’re doing in order to sustain a tempo that maintains your speed and smooth pedalling action.
As cyclists we also need to be alert to what’s happening on the road ahead of us and behind us. If we can’t hear cars approaching from behind, it’s hard to be prepared. We can make a simple change of our line on the road and end up in the path of a vehicle we didn’t hear.
The recently launched “Code of conduct for training cyclists” recommends against ear plugs for listening to music any time you are on a bike, and especially when riding in a group. Here it’s vital to be aware of other riders as well as traffic. (If someone yells “Roos” you want to be sure you’ve heard them!)
Think about your own safety and that of others you might be riding with next time you pull out your MP3 player and helmet. Hearing is such an important part of staying alert and safe.
Even if you’re not worried about improving your performance on the bike, enhancing your concentration can just as valuable off the bike. I can recommend some good books too!
See you on the road soon, God willing.