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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey people,

Let's discuss the flow state of mind. What is it? how to achieve it on a regular basis and what is your personal flow state biking.

What is flow? Its a state of complete immersion in an activity. Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost.

At that point there is no fear, no apprehension, no hesitation your feel a sence of calm, precision and joy, You see and do. All subconcious decisions that flow into a relaxed high perfomance.

Perhaps you could call it an physically active meditiaion?

Whether we know it or not we are all seeking that flow state. Once you understand that, you can then set plans in place to achieve that state of mind on a regular basis.

As I was riding on my weekly group ride with my riding buddies this week I realised that I am achieving flow state if mind of a regular basis.

My fitness combined with technical ability combined with bike set up, bike selection and riding the terrain i love to ride all combined to get to that mental state. I felt at one with the bike, a precision with my riding. The bike went exactly where I wanted it to go and i cleaned every feature that day without a single doubt.

So how to achieve this state riding?

* What style terrian do you enjoy riding the most? Seak it out, find it and practice it. If you need to build skill, identify that skill and make a determined plan and learn that new skill.

* What type of bike and set up works best for that terriain/style. Research it, test ride and get the bike that is best suited to that style. Set it up to suit your personal needs.

* Build fitness and strength related to that style. You cant reach a flow state easily if you are constantly out of breath due to lack of fitness. You also need enough strength to demand that bike goes where you want it to go.

I recomend a minimum of 2 rides per week, ideally 3.

* You need to ride at the level that challenges your skillset. Just riding along and a medium pace on an easy track wont get you into a flow state. You need to find the trail that challenges you and then ride it at a challenging pace. It is at that point when you can combine the fitness, skill set and bike set up with a challenging speed and track that you will find flow.

* Optional would be to find a like minded group of buddies you can ride with to share the stoke.

Now you have your bike an yourself optimised get out there and ride as many different trails you can to get into that flow state and experience it as much as you can.

https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?language=en
 

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The right state of mind, when mountain biking or actually doing anything is a matter of not just the mind but also the body - both should go together in a harmonious and ballanced way. Only when both are in sync the right (or flow) state of mind can be achieved.

The following (translated) quote of Miyamoto Musashi, who lived in Japan in the fifteenth century and a renowned samurai warrior known not just as an undefeated dueler, but also as a master of battlefield strategy, comes to mind:

“… the state of mind should remain the same as normal. In ordinary circumstances as well as when practicing … let there be no change at all — with the mind open and direct, neither tense nor lax, centering the mind so that there is no imbalance, calmly relax your mind and savor this moment of ease thoroughly so that the relaxation does not stop its relaxation for even an instant.

Even when still, your mind is not still; even when hurried, your mind is not hurried. The mind is not dragged by the body, the body is not dragged by the mind. Pay attention to the mind, not the body. Let there be neither insufficiency nor excess in your mind. Even if superficially weakhearted, be inwardly stronghearted,…. It is essential for those who are physically small to know what it is like to be large, and for those who are physically large to know what it is like to be small; whether you are physically large or small, it is essential to keep your mind free from subjective biases.

Let your inner mind be unclouded and open, placing your intellect on a broad plane. It is essential to polish the intellect and mind diligently. Once you have sharpened your intellect to the point where you can see whatever in the world is true or not, where you can tell whatever is good or bad, and when you are experienced in various fields and are incapable of being fooled at all by people of the world, then your mind will become imbued with the knowledge and wisdom ….

There is something special about knowledge of the art of war, It is imperative to master the principles of the art of war and learn to be unmoved in mind even in the heat of battle.”
 

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I like chunk, gnar.and chunder. I don't care for groomed trails. I like to microprocess every split decision at speed and do the dance and it doesn't matter which bike I'm on.

Speaking of flow and a zen state, you should see my dog's line selection.
 

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For flow state, there must be some technicality to the terrain. Ironically, "flow trails" are so boring I don't even bother with them. They lack technical quality, yet they do not allow the power output necessary for type of flow state I can get on a road bike.

Another factor is time on the bike. It takes me about an hour to get into it, and I can ride for about four hours before I get too fatigued to be safe.

For fitness, and some of you hate me for saying this, I have to do a couple rides a week on my road bike.

And also, what Vader said.

I like chunk, gnar.and chunder. I don't care for groomed trails. I like to microprocess every split decision at speed and do the dance and it doesn't matter which bike I'm on.
 

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Depending on terrain, speed is not necessarily a requirement. I've heard people say "you can get rhythm in the rocks, but you can't get flow". I tend to disagree.
But yes, fitness and technique is a requirement. My best, smoothest rides happened when I could push just the right gear. (not that I never achieved flow when I was newer and slower - but it would not have been recognizable as flow to anyone else...kinda goes along with "It's never easier. You just go faster")
And as far as flow trails, it would seem they are mostly just a series of turns, which can lead to some real flow moments when you are balancing inertia against traction just the right way.

This may be appropriate here:
"Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just a means to an end but a unique event in itself."
~ Robert M. Pirsig, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance

As fast as things happen in MTBing, it seems we are still able to experience every last instantaneous event individually. I know I often become hyper-focused and notice very small details/features/creatures at trail speeds.

-F
 

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U sayin' Bolt ?
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No matter what I am doing, if I am focused on breathing, my mind is right and clear. On the bike I like a long, tacky, wooded climb, with a soft winding descent.
 

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Nothing will help you enjoy an activity more than getting a good night sleep the night before (no joke), having a game plan about the day (travel/food/hydration), knowing your equipment is all good (tuned up, no nagging worries about flats, that weird squeak you haven't figured out, will the rim hold up despite that huge dent and slightly out of true?, etc.) and not having any time constraints / concerns.

In essence, you want to go into the activity with no worries about the activity. Once you do that, it's a lot easier to turn off the other noise from your life. If you're stressed about the activity itself? Very little chance of reaching that flow state.
 

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Ride in your sweet spot of difficulty, where there is a balance of challenge and mastery, not on the ragged edge of your limit of control. I find staying in this sweet spot difficult, as I often want to keep pushing. One other pitfall some of us have found is misinterpreting giddiness/wild stoke/strong enthusiasm for being in flow. Strong emotions can be a distraction, even if they don't feel like anxiety or fear.


The classic description of flow, often used for artists, may need to be altered for riding, as external stimuli are critical, but otherwise can be similar.


(From a quick summary of Csikszentmihalyi's research on flow)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ride in your sweet spot of difficulty, where there is a balance of challenge and mastery, not on the ragged edge of your limit of control. I find staying in this sweet spot difficult, as I often want to keep pushing. One other pitfall some of us have found is misinterpreting giddiness/wild stoke/strong enthusiasm for being in flow. Strong emotions can be a distraction, even if they don't feel like anxiety or fear.


The classic description of flow, often used for artists, may need to be altered for riding, as external stimuli are critical, but otherwise can be similar.


(From a quick summary of Csikszentmihalyi's research on flow)
Nice. I was going to post this chart. Sums it up nicely.

I also agree that a standard flow trail doesn't get me into flow state. I too need to push harder than that and find more gnar....

Keep the chat coming.
 
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