Composing for the Bicycle – Achieving a Relaxed State Before Riding

This article isn’t about writing music directly; I’m referring to composing oneself for optimal calmness, balance and efficiency when riding a bike.

Most of us are probably pretty good at this most of the time, but a relaxed state can sometimes be elusive, say following a crash, in a new situation, or when one is nervous or anxious for outside reasons that intrude on the cycling. Further, it’s a rare cyclist who doesn’t have some scope for improvements in composure, be they from posture, technique or alertness. For sure, all these aspects influence each other.

I’m going to assume here that your bike is safe to ride, well maintained, appropriate for the job, and fits you properly. If any of those are not the case, then absence of composure is perhaps appropriate; address those issues before moving on.

If you are apprehensive in everyday life, carrying worries or fears, it’s both unlikely and unrealistic to expect that to evaporate when going for a ride. This is different from taking a spin to shake out the stresses of work, for example. Learning how to find a calm center, with relaxed muscles and nice deep breaths is useful in everyday life and can be transferred to riding.

Start with a daily habit, just five minutes, where you are not distracted by TV, phone, magazines, food or drink or any other intrusion. Find yourself a quiet place where you can sit comfortably, and close your eyes. Bring your attention to your muscles, maybe start with the shoulders, neck and jaw. Release any tension, perhaps mobilize the joints a bit, and loosen them up. Take nice, slow, deep belly breaths, and allow some space in your fibers. This isn’t esoteric necessarily; it’s just a way for you to focus internally, allow some ease, and harness your state.

You may find your attention wandering, with thoughts coming and going, ambient noises and so on. That’s ok, just gently bring your focus back to your muscles and breathing. Just five minutes. If you find any tension, let it go.

This doesn’t need to be ‘good’ practice or in any way skilled; it’s the simple intention that counts.

Once you’ve begun to compose yourself, get on a bike – maybe on an indoor trainer, especially if you’re coming back from a crash, or feel nervous about venturing out for whatever reason. Aim to maintain your mellow state when you start pedaling: keep your shoulders, neck and jaw loose, relax your elbows, and breathe into your belly.

Practice being sufficiently relaxed whilst riding. You don’t have to be totally mellow; calm enough is fine. If you’re able to pay attention to what’s happening around you, without being distracted by whatever state you’re in, that’s really ok.

Compose yourself before going out to ride, too, or when planning an event or race.

Learn and rehearse how to find and maintain a manageable state. Make this a daily habit, if need be. In that respect, rehearsing composure is rather like practicing a musical instrument. This stuff works, even if you’re not sure about it. Little and often is the key, just a few minutes each day. Begin it now!


Head Coach Paul Page Hanson has been a licensed psychotherapist in his home country of England. He now works out of San Francisco, CA as a coach teaching all levels of cyclists and other endurance athletes in their training, riding skills and mental skills.

Additional Resource: See Also: Neuroscientist Sara Lazar talks about mental composure and how meditation can reshape one’s brain.