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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am an avid outdoorsman and recently got back into mountain biking. I often find myself in Zen like moments in my outdoor recreational pursuits, and this is the main fuel of continued interest in the outdoors. I am currently addicted to biking, as I have found I can get into the Zen Zone pretty regularly. Its hard to say how much the bike performance, the trail, or even my attitude and energy play into it on each ride. Its tempting to consider spending a much greater wad of cash on a "better bike" to enhance the experience, but I wonder if the Zen Zone is fleeting anyway. Perhaps I should just spend more energy on my riding skills and fitness level, what do you guys think? Is it the bike, the trail, or your own skill level that keeps you in the Zen Zone?
 

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What I think the OP is talking about is akin to the topics covered in the book, "Flow: The Psychology of Ultimate Experience." (Semantically grondahl is right, but I think I get your point.)

For me, it's all three factors: bike (well-designed and operating well), trail (conditions and your expectations of it), and rider (skill, focus, strength, agility). The less you trust your bike, the trail, or yourself, the less you'll hit those states of elevated consciousness. It's only in that regard that I think the bike itself matters. I'm way less predictable and variable than my bike (work stress, stomach troubles, that damn pimple, whatever)!

I get that feeling in different ways, too: flowy singletrack with almost no elevation gain can induce flow as much as sweeping downhill runs, but the sensations are different. Hard to put into words.

I also find that I can't achieve Flow (capital-F) if I'm angry, no matter how much I want to ride to blow off steam. I need "beginner's mind," to borrow a Zen concept/phrase, where my mind is clear and my body is calm, then I can ride very well. If I'm all pissed off, then I need to grab the road bike instead and just hammer.
 

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bust a move
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I get those moments also. The more I ride the more I understand that for me it isn`t something I can control...rather something that just happens. I agree with Atomick that it doesn`t happen for me when I am angry or when I might plan for a nirvana type ride. It just happens when and how it happens and for me it is an addicting feeling. I used to fish alot and that special time/place thing kicks in only so often but is what kept me coming back for more. MTB for me is close to the same thing, I always enjoy the ride, even the extra challenging ones, but the hope of getting "in the zone" or whatever you want to call it is for me a beautiful thing and is what brings me back time after time.
As far as needing a "better bike" I`m not sure about that. My bike is a good bike that is well tuned and that is all I need. I could spend more money but I feel I already have a bike that is capable of more than its rider is. :yesnod:
 

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Many people ride singlespeeds to remove bike issues that prevent you from getting into flow/zen. I don't think I've ever gotten into a good flow while having bike issues. If your bike is well suited to the type of riding and functions well, you probably won't see an improvement.

If you ride really rough terrain and change to a full suspension, you may see a difference. I would also suggest, if you aren't working hard enough, you won't get into flow. If you ride on buff singletrack on a full squishy bike with gears, it may just feel easy and eventually boring. This is where a singlespeed; maybe hardtail or rigid; can come in; you work a little harder and stop thinking about the things that don't matter.
 

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(enter witty phrase here)
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When you ride a technical section of a trail that you couldn't clear before (or didn't think was possible).
You stop afterwards, look back and think (or say) "wholy sh!t I just rode that"... "and i'm still in one piece".
 

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Praise Bob
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Tao gets it

tao said:
Zen is being fully present and engaged. Only your mind can prevent that.
My .02 contribution is that while all three components are involved in obtaining moments of Zen while riding, the central component is you. It may be more difficult to obtain when the trail conditions suck, or your bike is giving you fits but with the proper mental training you can overcome those hurdles. It is similar to meditation. It is easier to do with a quiet, darkened enviroment with ritualized steps to achieve thoughtlessness. When you practice for a while you get good enough to where you can clear your mind even in the doctors office or bus station.

I have to admit that I dont have enough mental strength to overcome when the trail sucks and you are breaking traction or needlessy crashing. I still enjoy the ride, but it is more of a chore and more akin to pure excerise regimen rather than the reason I am addicted to biking.

Part of the reward for having a nice bike is the fact that it makes that mental state easier to achieve. When your breathing matches your cadence just right and the drivetrain silently turns out power out of every turn. When your machine responds to your input and you are lose and looking way ahead you rail corners and you are one with the machine and the trail. You dont think about work, family or riding technique. You just exist in the moment.
 

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achiever
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I think everything is in your head. (Except maybe the condition of your ride.) Kind of an observer created reality thing. I love the Zone. One of the best vehicles (pun intended) to get me there is a street motorcycle. You absolutely have to get in there when you're riding at a high rate of speed. I don't do that anymore but used to race around the backroads in my area in a state of Zoned out, locked in attention. Time seems to slow down and there's nothing but you and the road, the bike is secondary. I can get there on my MTB but it helps to know the flow of the trail and just ride with no outside distractions.
 

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abnormally aspirated
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My contribution...

anyone see 'I Heart Huckabees'? they talk about "pure being."

that's what I see riding as... well, not really when I'm slogging and suffering up a long crappy climb, but when I'm pinned flying along through techy stuff or flowing downhill - completely focused on the task at hand. Even if I wanted to be thinking about something else, I couldn't... my brain is completely in the moment and "in the zone"...

For me, I can't do it on every trail, it has to be fun. It can be done on any bike when the trail is right... you just have to be completely focused. The rest of it is up to you...
 

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well mannered lout
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For me there's something special about enjoying a bit of success in a new experience. Applying skills learned to a new trail, or jumping the plateau on old familiar trails, or finally feeling like I can handle the new bike like it's actually MY bike all kind of get me there...that place where a new kind of connection is made in my brain. Maybe it's different than what others experience or describe here because I think I take part of it home with me and add it to my expectations of myself and my next ride . It's similar in that a breakdown in equipment, trail conditions, or body nearly always ruin it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Go with the Flow

I read up on the 'Flow' concepts and found them to be very helpful in my quest for the 'Zone'. However, I am still something of a mystic, and feel that we don't have full control of 'Flow' (or perhaps don't fully understand it), but I do agree that we can set the stage for a greater likelyhood of it occurring. That approach works well for me, if I treat 'Flow' as a partly mystical thing then I am not so dissapointed when it doesn't happen (and maybe its more likely to happen if I don't think I totally control it).
 

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I think just the constant scenery change and the outdoors itself is enough to keep me in the zen zone. My stamina isn't really a problem since I ride motocross I like to think I'm in okay shape. Although I do think a nicer bike would put me deeper in the hobby and make me want to get out more and try different things.
 
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