“Like is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein
Few things give you the simple freedom and joy you get from riding a bike. Having ridden thousands of miles, I can attest that cruising down the road is good for your body and mind. Riding a bicycle allows you to see the world in a new light – both the scenery around you and your own thoughts.
Before I get too carried away, here are 5 of the life lessons my bike has taught me:
1. You’re stronger than you think you are. My dad and brother are beasts and have both ridden in the Leadville Trail 100 with the likes of Lance Armstrong (my dad even has a belt buckle or two to prove it!). The #LT100 race’s motto, “You are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can” is something these riders have to 100% believe to compete in a race at that level.
For us ‘normal’ people, we don’t have to go to those lengths to learn the same lesson. And the funny thing is, it’s often not our end-goal or our biggest feat that teaches us this. It’s the little things – getting up out of bed before the sun or cranking up a never-ending hill – that show us our true strength.
2. Focus on the present moment. Riding a bike allows you to take in a greater amount of scenery than walking or running, and allows you to take it in more fully than riding in a vehicle. It’s the perfect speed for seeing the world around you, living in the moment and appreciating the wonders of the great outdoors.
If you are on the open road take note of how the land curves, where the earth meets the sky and how the sunlight filters through the trees. If you’re in an urban setting, pay attention to the details of the architecture, the street art and the human elements scattered through a land of concrete.
Focusing on the moment during your rides will carry into other parts of your life. It will make you more mindful, more appreciative and a more active participant in life.
3. Break things into manageable chunks. It doesn’t matter if I’m riding 15 miles or 100, sometimes I want to quit at mile 1. Don’t do it! Find an easy, attainable goal and focus on it and only it. Sometimes it’s as simple as ‘get to two miles’. I know I’ll be in a different place in two miles, my body will start to warm up, some of the cobwebs will clear out of my brain and focusing on that small goal rather than the bigger (daunting) picture makes it possible.
4. Listen to your body. A couple summers ago I went out on one of my typical after-work rides. Except this was July. In Kansas City. And it was hot. The heat index was 100*+ and the sun was beaming into my soul, baking me from the inside out. I was miserable, and contemplated changing my route to keep it easy, but I wanted to get the miles in and pressed on. Bad idea… on the way home my body quit. I was exhausted, shaking, hot and cold and looked (and felt) like a legit crazy person. I recovered pretty quickly, but it was a good lesson that I think about often. Your body knows what to do and will tell you. You just have to listen.
5. Learn to change a tire. I avoided changing a tire for years. I usually rode with other, more experienced cyclists that were happy to step in if the need ever arose. And I said a quick prayer every time I went out on my own with a word to my husband that I’d call him if I needed help.
Then one fateful day at the downtown airport my tire fizzed out and I decided enough was enough. I sat down in the grass, pulled out my phone and looked up a YouTube video. I was so triumphant that I shared the news with the kind cyclists who rode by and offered their assistance. I realized that I had pegged changing a tire as one of those things ‘I don’t do’, but the sheer act of learning this simple task empowered me. Stop putting off the small things and learn to do them yourself.
Stay tuned and check out Part 2 of “10 Life Lessons My Bike Has Taught Me” coming soon.