Rapha Manuals: Finding The Answers

While we don’t recommend trying to solve a Rubik's cube while you’re riding, heading out for a spin can be a great way to solve other problems. Take a problem out on the bike and it’s bound to come back smaller.

23 July 2018

In the Rapha Core film from 2016, one of the featured riders, Ultan Coyle, said: “Take a problem out on the bike, and it comes back smaller.” The statement speaks to the heart of why many of us ride, and it resonated with viewers. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe: a fuzzy freedom of thought that floats into view after a while, and comes into focus. Fragments that piece together before you know it, like a Rubik Cube completing itself.

In an age where more and more of us are working in offices, moving from desk chair at work to sofa at home and back again, the effects on people’s physical health are well documented. We believe riding is the answer. But riding also helps find the answers too.

Aerobic exercise like cycling, even for periods as short as fifteen minutes, not only promotes physical wellbeing but also improves mental health. Someone who regularly exercises is far less likely to suffer from anxiety or depression and more likely to have superior cognition which, in turn, is linked with better memory, a longer attention span and an improved problem solving ability.

Whether you’re trying to solve a specific problem, or just in need of some time to reflect on your day, there is science behind the theory that a bike ride is the best time for a good old think. Rob Copeland, keen cyclist and sports psychologist at the UK’s National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine Professor, explains: “Exercise promotes neurogenesis which is the development of new neurones in the brain. Higher levels of brain development increase neuroplasticity – the ability of your brain to adapt, learn new skills and be creative.”

Just as any workout trains muscles all over your body to be able to cope with the physical demands of your session, so the brain adapts to become stronger and better able to deal with its mental demands. Think of your brain as a muscle like any other in your body that will become stronger with training. While you might not work a job that requires the leg strength you gain from cycling, all of us need to be sharp of mind.

As well as providing brain training that ensures you’re firing on all cylinders, cycling is a natural mood booster. “Exercise prompts the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin in the brain,” Copeland says. “Significant releases of these hormones make us feel better about ourselves and relieve stress. The greater the volume of training, the greater the stress release.”

Indeed, going to the other end of the spectrum, to absolute effort on the bike, can take your mind to new places. In a long read for Rapha Mondial magazine, Richard Askwith looked at how the brain responds when the body is pushed past normal physical limits. It can be magical, even meditative, as CANYON//SRAM pro cyclist Alexis Ryan told him: “I’ll go out and train, and I’m so focused on what I’m doing that all of the sudden the four hours has just gone. Nothing’s going on: there’s just the hum of the bicycle. I can’t even tell you what I thought about, because I didn’t really think of anything.”

So can you see why we’re such advocates of a good bike ride at Rapha? As humans, it’s normal that we get hung up on tricky decisions and seemingly unsolvable problems sometimes. Just remember to grab your bike, head out for a ride and your metaphorical Rubik’s cube is sure to fit together by the time you put your bike away again. Or you’ll have at least stopping a racing mind for a few hours.

Ride with us

Rapha believes that cycling transforms lives and should be the most popular sport in the world. Discover our new campaign, Riding is the Answer, and find how you can ride with us.

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