Cycling is often used to help us fix our health issues, both physical and mental. It is an excellent tool for this and many of the other ails of society. Cycling is then used to help fight against depression and anxiety, which I’m sure we can all agree is a great idea. I’m going to go a step further and claim fixed gear, and tracklocross, in particular, is one of the best forms of cycling for this.
I’ve suffered, and still do, from depression and anxiety. Many days are a battlefield, other days are not. I use cycling as my tool to escape from this. It does work, but I still have a few ideas that I think can help and build from the basic idea of cycling helping by keeping you in the moment.
Cycling forces us to stay in the moment. As we ride, we have to pay attention to what is happening around us, what those people crossing the road will do, where is that car going. We also have to listen to our body. We need to listen to eat, drink, and not bonk somewhere out in the wilderness.
That is the conventional wisdom around cycling, and to an extent, it is true. There are times, though, that it isn’t. Rural climbs, long drags out of town, wide gravel tracks, canal paths. In these places, I find it easy to lose the ability to be in the moment and go back to whatever is bringing me down.
The reason my mind can wander in these places is I’ve spent a lifetime in cycling—some places you don’t want to listen to your body and just get on with it. You can get away from thinking about braking, effort, obstacles, or cars. When I say you, I pretty much mean “I” here. The terrain isn’t pushing you for every part of your attention.
I’ve also been a racer in my past, and I did most of my rides at pace. Looking at the world and soaking in where you tend not to happen when you’re hammering along. Slowing down and taking in the world would be a great step, and that is why I now take photos or videos instead of using Strava to record rides.
I could also just stick to mountain biking and only ride places where I need to go full bore and not have time to be anywhere other than in the moment. It was pretty much what I did in my twenties. I’m not that person anymore. It also doesn’t bode well for your anxiety if your solution requires life-threatening situations to help you be more mindful.
Tracklocross, and fixed gear in general, allows you to stay more in the moment. You can’t coast. You need to read and think about the dangers more acutely. You’ll find yourself paying more attention to the world, as you simply can’t coast out of trouble.
Corners, you can’t use level pedals or dropping a foot depending on how steep and tight the corner is. You have to pedal around it. You then need to think about your line. A bad line on a geared bike, and you can coast out of it. A bad line on a fixed gear, and you’re clipping a pedal as you ride and probably coming down. That makes it seem more dangerous than it is. It isn’t risky if you stay in the moment and pay attention to the world.
Tracklocross then takes these on-road risks and applies them to the woods. I don’t have to do quite the same risky runs as I would on a mountain bike. I find that I might have missed flowy trails in my younger years as boring is precisely the trail that I want to ride.
As I have to pay attention to the dangers, I am not riding that fast. I can also see the world but not enough that my mind can wander. I will also stop to take pictures as I’m not using Strava, so the worries of speed, do not apply. I also only tend to stop to take a photo, grab my breath and carry on. Again, not enough time to allow my mind to wander.
I’ve been doing this regularly since the start of this year, and I’ve found I want to ride more. My life just in general feels better. It just makes me happy. I’m not saying this will work for you, it’s working for me and maybe just trying a little tracklocross, or fixed gear riding might make you’re head a better place.