The tarmac blurs under my wheels and suddenly my entire body has become a sensor: feeling the surface of the road through my hands on the bars; hearing the movements of the car behind me; seeing into the maybe-future as my eyes scan the upcoming route for the unexpected. My subconscious reminds me, unbidden, that this particular stretch of highway has a pothole coming up in a few metres, and my fingers reach down to click the gear shifter well before my legs report that the gradient has increased.
People say the best way to experience major cities is to look up and engage with what's around you. Moving on two wheels through your environment is an even better way to see it afresh.
When I ride my bike, I find my mind wandering into reveries inspired by random roadside sights and glimpses of life being lived as I pedal by silently. Thoughts occur to me; ideas pop up as I crest hills, panting. Solutions, sometimes, appear on horizons like fellow bike-riders greeting me, waving as they pass.
Infrequently, on good days, I'll briefly taste pure efficiency: the pedals turn smoothly and effortlessly, the bike almost singing as my legs push it through the air. The roads are clear, the sun is shining, and there's no headwind. Then it's gone, all too fleetingly, but I remember it and remind myself that I'm capable of this, capable of converting raw energy into something tangible and powerful.
Engaging with your body, learning to listen to it and nourish it: this is my productivity. A clear head, lungfuls of fresh air and an eager feeling of wellbeing bordering on smugness (because you've exercised and now that afternoon snack feels justified) can do wonders to unblock blockers, to debug bugs.
There are tools I rely on each day to help me move faster, be more efficient or protect my body, but when I'm stuck on a challenging software development task or don't know where to start with a wide-ranging piece of work, I switch environments. Reorienting myself into another perspective allows me to focus on what's critical: what can I do right now that will improve things further down the road?
Pedal strokes don't matter, really. The counts of miles, the personal bests, the distances climbed: just numbers. Likewise the lines of code, the pull requests, the all-nighters now forgotten. What I do remember, though, is the views that were mine alone, the unexpected stumbles upon the profound, and the grateful ache upon cresting the hill and seeing the long, lazy stretch of road threading away before me.