Cycling & Thinking

A few time ago, I’ve slept really bad. I usually sleep like a baby, but this night it was different… I woke up in the middle of the night with nightmares and anxiety. In the morning I’ve felt still dizzy… The anxiety still was present and the lack restful sleep was aweful. A good cup of coffee helped at least to get up and (somehow) running.

I brought my son to school by bike. He really likes that… And it felt felt good. So good, that I decide to go for a quick ride. Sun was shining and the countryside was beautiful. The smell of fresh lawned grass was in the air. Sunlight, fresh air and physical activity was the best recipe for me in this moment.

After a few minutes I forgot my anxiety and the lack of sleep. I’ve had to stop to record a few thoughts. I took out my phone and recorded an audio note for myself in Evernote. Wow – how could I just have those great ideas and make the best of such a lazy morning?

Dense leafage
Dense leafage – Retiro Park Madrid

We should take wandering outdoor walks, so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing.” Later on I’ve read this quote from Seneca (On Tranquility of Mind, 17.8) in Ryan Holiday’s and Stephen Hanselman’s book The Daily Stoic Journal.

Sunny Morning Retiro Park
A sunny morning commute in winter – Retiro Park Madrid

Even if I don’t know, if Seneca would have been an avid cyclist today, the benefits of taking a bike ride and some deep breathing are quite similar. Cycling is one of the most effective ways to to (re)connect with your deep thoughts and get a rush of oxygen. I am currently working on different techniques to improve my focus and concentration. I’ll share my thoughts in a different post.

 

I really love Stoicism… it is a great approach to stay focused and relaxed. As a Ninjutsu-practitioner I’ve found also many coincidences between stoicism and martial arts. Acceptance and tranquility of mind are key concepts in both disciplines. I’ve found many intersting ways to integrate these concepts in my daily routines. A morning commute by bike can be as inspiring as practicing katas – ritualized patterns of movements in martial arts. 

Ryan Holiday - The Daily Stoic Journal
My own copy of The Daily Stoic Journal

Journaling is also a great way to calm down your mind. Ryan Holidays’s and Stephen Hanselman’s book The Daily Stoic Journal is a great fit for commuters. It holds outstanding Stoic wisdom and  thoughts for each day. There is space for your own morning and evening relections, which makes this book a great choice for commuters.

Please leave your comment and let me know what you think!

How To Find Your Commuting Route

Congratulations! You have decided to change your mind-crushing commute for cycling. This is awesome!

Next step: Finding the best commuting route.

This can be sometimes a tricky task, especially when you move in environments not prepared for cycling. Fortunately help is available: Google Maps offers now routes for cycling. This allows you to have a basic idea about time and the route in general. But the great thing about cycling is that you have a vast range of shortcuts and hidden sideways available.

But let’s see. Here are some criteria for optimizing  your route:

  • Fastest connection
  • Safety
  • Fun
  • Interesting sites
  • Transport connectivity (access to subway / bus)
  • Coffee / breakfast / lunch / dinner supply

These criteria are just an orientation. You probably will find over time variations of your commuting route. For example, it might be well worth to invest a few minutes to take a longer route and crossing a beautiful park. Other days you might be in a hurry and just get at your destination in no time.

But before starting out, just take some time to try out your new route your cycling equipment. Everything ok? Seat position comfortable? Great.

Here’s one of my favourite commuting routes in Madrid (Spain). Guess what? This route is also a great way to see the city center on your next visit.

Starting point: Atocha central station.

Atocha Train Station
Atocha Central Station – On a late evening commute 

Endpoint: La Paz Market.

You can pick-up a bike at the Bici-Mad post close to Atocha central station. You can even make the registration with a credit card at the bikestation. But I higly recommend you to check the bike before picking it up. There is nothing more annoying than to find out that the bike is broken when you just want start your ride. 

bike check
Checking a bike at Atocha Central Station

Usually I check all relevant details: Seat, brakes, air pressure, motor , lights, battery power…. In order to check if the motor is working, you turn the bike switch on. Then you lift up the back-wheel and push the pedal. The front wheel (where the bike is propelled) will immediately respond if the bike is ok… And if you find a bike with a seat turned around, this means that it is broken. It is a commmon way to indicate any defects to fellow cyclists. 

Bici-Mad checklist
Check-list for Bici-Madrid 

After a short ride over Calle Alfonso XII you arrive at the Retiro Park, at the Puerta del Ángel Caído. On the right hand you’ll find the Royal Observatory. Near the entrance is the bicycle station 69. 

Bike station 69, Retiro Park Madrid
Sign of bike station #69 near the Retiro Park 

Riding up the hill (Paseo Fernán Gómez) you will find the statue of the fallen angel.

Continuing Paseo de Cuba you will arrive to the large pond.

Lago grande Retiro
The large pond on a beautiful morning commute 

When you want to get to the city center, you have different choices. You can take get to Puerta de Alcalá and ride the bike lane at Calle de Serrano.

Quiosco
A bandstand at the Retiro Park

Or you can take one of my favorite shortcuts. Behind the Quiosco de Música el Buen Retiro you’ll find an pedestrian access to the metro station “Retiro”. This is tunel that gets you safely on the other side of Calle de Alcalá. Both sides of the tunnel are accessible for bikes, but make sure you get of your bike.

 

On the other side, you’ll see the church of San Manuel and San Benito. Nearby you can take Calle Claudio Coello up north. At the height of Calle Claudio Coello, Nº 42 you’ll find bike station 92. You can park your bike here and keep walking to the La Paz market. And if you are hungry, I highly recommend you La Bodega de Casanova, especially for breakfast. Their tomato toast is delicious!!

Bar Casanova
Since 1952 – Sign of La Bodega de Casanova

You can access the La Paz Market just behind the La Bodega de Casanova.

At the La Paz Market you’ll find Casa Dani. One of my favorite places to taste a Spanish tortilla. From the La Paz Market you can take a walk to the Santa Barbara district, where you find nice bars and lovely stores.

Enjoy this beautiful route crossing Madrid!

Want to share your commuting route? – Awesome, just write a comment! Thank you

Mobile office setup

You’re much already have experience that commuting can be your most soul-crushing experience at today you lose all of and productive time just to get from one point to the other. At Urban Bike Ninja it is our mission to help you to make the best out of your commute and turn commuting time in something beautiful and useful.
Cycling can help you to gain a lot of time if you have to move inside your city…
But what to do, if your commuting route — like mine — includes public transport?
On my own journey I have found my favorite productivity setup for commuting. I not only a cycling junkie, but also a Getting Things Done® — GTD® for short — and productivity addict. I’ll soon share my GTD® hacks for avid travelers… but let’s take a look at my basic mobile office:

Basic mobile office setup
A basic setup for a mobile office

A basic setup for a mobile office: Phone, Bluetooth keyboard, small notepad, pens, pencil case…

Being productive & cycling requires to pay special attention and size . I’ve downsized my stuff to the bare minimum, making sure I can stay highly productive almost anywhere. So what’s in my backpack?

Let’s start with one of the key ingredients for high productivity… COFFEE!! Nothing fuels you up like having a nice cup of coffee on your commuting ride. The combination of the fresh endorphins from an early morning ride and the magic power of roasted beans is a clear winner. I use a steel coffee mug that closes tight and proved highly resistent to impacts. Believe me, the last thing you want is a “coffee incident” on your way to work…

Next step — Get your work done… I’ve been testing different setups. A laptop is usually too heavy and takes too much time to boot. Sometimes it might be necessary, but in any other cases my phone and a nice Bluetooth keyboard allows me to respond emails or work on Evernote or Google Docs.

I always take a small notebook with me just to jot down some ideas make drawings or whatever. Mobile applications allow to scan and upload things directly to Evernote, for exemple business cards.

A battery pack, charging cables, earphones and your tech equipment complete any commuting equipment. Just make sure to review your backpack regularly in order to avoid unnecessary weight.

Enjoy the ride,

Yours,

Axel

GTDⓇ on the go

This post is about David Allen’s Getting Things DoneⓇ (GTDⓇ) methodology adopted to cycling & commuting. I am a huge GTDⓇ-enthusiast… Actually, Urban Bike Ninja wouldn’t be alive without GTDⓇ.

Kathryn & David Allen, Axel Blumenberg
From left: David Allen, Kathryn Allen, Axel Blumenberg at a GTD workshop in Amsterdam 

For those of you, who never have heard about GTDⓇ, is a productivity system based that helps you to stay organized and relaxed. GTDⓇ is based on five key elements:

  • Capture
  • Clarify
  • Organize
  • Reflect
  • Engage

Getting clear and current through an in depth weekly review is an awesome sensation. But I have to admit it…

It is sometimes tough to keep following through. When you work highly mobile like me, sitting down two hours, for example on Friday, to review all your stuff might be complicated. But skipping your weekly review for too long isn’t a choice either. So what to do?

I’ve set up my GTDⓇ-system that way, that I can review my stuff almost anywhere, at any time. A physical in-tray at home, but I use mostly my phone as my digital inbox and take a small notepad with me. In some occasions I also a carry a voice recorder with me.  

Mobile office 1
One of my mobile office setups 

My personal productivity system runs on Evernote. It is my secret weapon to stay on my productive edge. So even if I shouldn’t be able to find some time for a weekly review, there are always time frames that can be used. For example commuting rides by train, waiting for the next meeting…

Even if you can’t review all of yours stuff, you’ll be way ahead just doing some part of it. Cycling and mobile office setups allow you also to give a different flavor to your weekly review. So hey, why don’t get your bike and take a ride to a sunny park, get yourself a nice coffee and do your weekly review there.

Keep riding,

Best

Axel