Friday, July 6, 2012

Synchronization of Heart, Effort, Distance, and Mind on a Bicycle

Stem color in harmony with bike. I've always appreciated that.

On today's commute, I started contemplating the idea of synchronizing my heart rate with my cadence. 70 rpm and 70 bpm seemed like a nice easy starting point, but to do that would have to be a very easy gear spinning. Then I started calculating, if each turn of the crank was matched by one beat of the heart, if the HRM and the cadence counter both said 70, could I also find a unit of measure which would yield "70" something for each turn of the rear wheel in a particular gear? I'm seeking resonance here, numeric harmony, a balanced matrix of cycling parameters.

In my head, I actually became pretty certain that 70 decimeters per crank rotation would be very close, but that had a lack of symmetry about it, since I was shooting for minutes in the denominator--revs per minute, beats per minute, something-distance-units per minute was what I needed. And I wasn't sure what type of gearing would yield 70 decimeters, or 7 meters, not off the top of my head, anyway.

Getting back in front of the computer, I found that 70 rods per minute would be 13.125 mph, in a gear/wheel combination right at about 5 meters of development--not the absolute easiest gear on my bike, but on my triple ring road bike, one of the easier cogs in the middle ring. A rod is a unit of distance used in surveying, equivalent to 16.5 feet. Are you with me on this?

Since my resting heart rate is right around 70, I'm doubtful I could spin 70 rpm, even in an easy 5 meters of development gear, and keep my HR at 70. So do the calculation at 80 bpm, 80 revs per minute, 80 rods per minute, which works out to 15 miles per hour. Maybe I could hit that. It sounds possible.

The spinning intersection of heart, effort, and distance

But what about mind? I mentioned that in the title. How to sync that up, too? Breathe in, that's one. Observe that inhalation, then exhale, that's two. Repeat, three, four. Observe your breathing rate, while also maintaining synchronization between cadence at 80 rpm and heart rate at 80 bpm. Calculate your respiration rate per minute, on the fly, and add an extra "hold the breath for one count" count once in a while, such that you are counting breath-steps, ins, outs, plus holds, so that the total comes out to 80. You have to plan ahead, and also not affect your breathing, just observe it and count the steps you need to add up to the synchronization target number. This may sound like cheating but it's exactly the point: you are actually counting observations of the steps of your own breathing, and if you chose not to make an observation of one step, it doesn't count because you didn't observe it. If your exercise respiration rate is less than 26.6 you'll have to find another number to align on, or else, count breaths differently, perhaps in base-8 rather than base-10. That's heart-effort-distance-mind at sync-80 right there. If you can count breath-steps in base-8 and not crash at 80 rpm, 80 bpm, moving 80 rods per minute, I can almost assure some sort of altered mental state. Please don't crash though.

But there's no reason to stop there. In fact, pick the gear that you feel comfortable with, one of many where you can sync your heart rate and cadence. 92 bpm at 92 rpm? Perfect. Stick with that gear. When you get home, go here and figure out the meters of development with your wheel and tire in that gear. Let's say you were running your 52X18 fixed gear with 700x28 tires (my personal preferred heart/effort/distance/mind synchronization combo): 6.2 meters per rotation of the crank. Therefore, 6.2 meters is my unit of measure for synchronizing heart/effort/distance and mind on my fixed gear bicycle. Let's call that a JRAkometer. 92 JRAkometers / minute, 92 bpm heart rate, 92 rpm cadence, 92 in-hold-out breath counts base-10. (92 JRAkometers / minute is 21.2 miles per hour, just to close off on that.) That's synchronization of heart, effort, distance, and mind on a bicycle.

Of course, and here's the secret, it's not about a particular number, or unit of measure, or speed, or distance, or base. It's about the focus, concentration, and power of observation that yields the synchronization, and the ability of the human mind to both conceive of such a thing, and achieve it in reality. Like the JRAkometer, you could make up your own units of time, and distance, and chose the number base of your liking (base 60 anyone?), and sync it all up from that direction, at whatever gear you happen to find amenable to spinning. Go forth and synchronize. The time-space continuum awaits.



  1. I get ON the bicycle my HR is like 130.
    A bit difficult to hold that cadence.
    Unless I cut that in half for 65.
    Then maybe I could a huff and a puff 65 times a minute?
    Breath in breath out like a Machine Head?
    So confusing!

  2. Isn't taking your pulse while riding a rather rare cause of distracted cycling?


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