The Flow (Or Lack Thereof)

Written by Boston Biker on Oct 04

Forgive me for a moment as I traverse into the realm of quasi-mystical-bullshit, but I would like to talk about The Flow.  The Flow for the uninitiated, is the feelings/actions of moving through, over, and around all obstacles in your path in a perfect flowing motion.




People who practice parkour talk a lot about this, as do surfers, and surprisingly people who like curling.  The idea is you move around things without disturbing them.   This doesn’t mean you blaze through traffic messing everyone else up.  It means you ride your bike with things like light timing, pedestrians, other traffic, and even things like the sun and what angle it is at, in mind.  The ideal Flow situation is one in which you break no laws, encounter no stops, and flow effortlessly though and around traffic in such a way that you achieve the maximum speed with minimal disturbance of everyone around you.

When you have The Flow, you will know it.  You feel amazing, everything is working out just right, and you will melt right through even the gnarliest traffic.  You will hear no honking, no one will swear at you, and you will just move.  This level of Flow requires extreme attention to detail, excellent knowledge of your environment, knowledge of your bike and bike handling skills, and above all focus on what you are doing and where you are going, where you have been, and where everything else on the road is going to be in the near future.  You literally have to attempt to see everything, figure out where it will be in 10 seconds, and then position yourself accordingly so that in 10 seconds when you get to that light you will be right where no one else is going to be.

Obviously this almost never happens.  You have to stop, lights turn red, people walk into the street, cars pull out of driveways.  You will almost never achieve ideal Flow.  That doesn’t mean that practicing this hyper focused style of riding has no benefit.  When you are paying extreme attention to what is going on around you, you are safer, you will notice the person crossing between cars, that truck backing out of a driveway, the cabby about to change lanes without signaling, these skills can and will make you a safer cyclist.   It will also most of the time slow you down slightly.  Going too fast means you have no reaction time, no reaction time means you can’t adapt to changing situations, and not being able to change and adapt means you are going to crash into something.

Today I had zero Flow.  I have no idea why, but everything was wrong, cars were too far over, or not far enough, pedestrians were aggressively stupid (walking out in front of moving cars), the bus drivers were not paying attention… in short it was a shit show.  Anyone else notice traffic being especially problematic this morning?  Anyone else experience The Flow?

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Posted in bostonbiker | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “The Flow (Or Lack Thereof)”

  1. By Uncle Robot on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Brilliant write up. I have noticed the flow off for several days especially cars/trucks coming closer than usual. I’ve wondered if it is partly the cooler weather, people dreading the change of light, or now running behind after weeks of getting kids to school on time. And myself being a little less alert than usual. The season is winding down…

  2. By Orientsee on Oct 5, 2013 | Reply

    Very nice. Our lives should have flow. Very Zen. Thanks

  3. By Charlie on Oct 5, 2013 | Reply

    I rarely experience the flow because the traffic signals in Boston are timed in such a way that I always get to each intersection just as it’s turning red.

  4. By Joan on Oct 6, 2013 | Reply

    Same complaint about the traffic on Oct. 4 in Arlington/Somerville – terrible flow. All the timing was off.

  5. By Phoenix on Oct 6, 2013 | Reply

    I enjoy a lot of flow because I take the longer, more pleasant, scenic route, riding quiet side streets and sidewalks (instead of the dreaded Hyde Park Ave freeway)to get to J.P. from Roslindale, and then I get on the bike path where it starts at Washington/New Washington, crossing with the walk light. I even ride the wrong way up one-way streets until I see cars coming, and then scoot on the sidewalk until they pass. This keeps me from having to ride on busier, dangerous roads near my home and my place of business.

    Avoiding roads full of cars and sidewalks full of people will enhance your ability to flow! :D

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