I’ve had a road bike for over five years and until a few weeks ago, I’d used it fewer times than fingers I have. And I don’t have that many fingers. I’d done a couple of triathlons and a century ride (okay, okay…it was a metric century. So sue me). I loved riding, but never had it as a big priority. That is, until a couple of weeks ago when one of my friends helped me get my wheels to start turning again. I’ve been back out on the road pretty much every day since.
Being out in the sun and the fresh air has been amazing. Sometimes when I’m out, I’ll look up at the clouds. It’s amazing how easy it is to get so distracted in life that I even forget to look up once in a while at the sky.
Needless to say, I have a lot of room to grow in the sport. While I realize I’m not an expert by any means, I feel like I’ve had a breadth of experiences that have changed my perspective about different things in life. So without further ado, here are a few life lessons that I’ve learned over the last few weeks while cycling.
1. The greatest fight in life is against yourself.
Cycling is an interesting sport. It’s a blast to ride with people, and yet much like golf, it’s a very personal “game.” I’d be crazy not to admit that there’s definitely an element of competition, even in recreational cycling. On one recent ride I was on my return trip home and I was starting to get tired. Suddenly another (much more experienced) rider came flying past me. I couldn’t let that happen! So what if I was tired. I still had more I could give. I started pedaling a little bit harder and picked up my speed to the point that I was moving at roughly the same speed as him. Did I catch up to him? Ha. Not by a long shot. But I learned that even though I was tired, I had more in my tank than I thought. I had to tell my tired legs to shut up and to keep on moving.
Regardless of what it looks like, everyone in life is in a private fight against themselves. I am very aware of the fact that I am my own greatest critic. When I say “I can’t,” I can’t. When I say, “I can,” I can. We may gain strength or courage, and maybe even a bit of initiative by the influence and examples of others, but whether or not we rise to the occasion and fight for a little bit longer is entirely up to us.
2. Wind sucks.
There’s nothing I hate more than wind when I’m out on a ride. It takes a decent workout and makes it hard. It takes a hard workout and makes it just plain miserable. I like riding out along the mountain corridor because there’s not a lot of traffic, there’s a dedicated (and rather large) bike lane, and some pretty good hills to keep things fresh and challenging. There’s also a lot of wind. Every time I head up the corridor and start getting wind in one direction, I get excited to think about when I turn around because instead of fighting the wind to move forward, it will likely be at my back and help push me along.
That’s a great idea in theory. And that’s exactly where it ends. In theory. Just because you have wind going one direction, doesn’t mean that when you turn around the wind will stop. Or that when you’re riding home there won’t be a 10 minute rain shower that completely soaks you. It doesn’t mean that cars will stay in their lane, or that they won’t get way too close to you for comfort. But you know what, that’s all okay. While it’s definitely not ideal, the struggle is where we learn. It’s when the muscle grows. It’s when the panting (slowly and over time) starts to decrease. As Pope Paul VI said, “All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.
3. Just keep going.
In Utah, there’s a lot of hills, canyons, and mountains so even in my super fit state (ha) it’s not unusual to get out of breath super fast on hills. I’m not talking about a little out of breath. You know the type I’m talking about…the uncontrollable panting that’s slightly embarrassing while on a group ride. Okay, maybe more than slightly.
Most of my rides start with at least a couple “pretty good sized” hills. (Enter panting). All I have to say is…God bless whoever created gears for a bike. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t switch things up while working my way up a hill. There’s so many times that I’ve thought about stopping on a hill to catch my breath. Luckily I’m lazy, and I don’t want to take the time/effort to unclip myself and pull off to the side of the road. So I change my gear speed and keep on going. Ironically it’s easier to keep going rather than to lose momentum and energy by stopping.
There’s always going to be reasons to stop, especially when you look ahead and you see another hill, or a whole lot of nothing. The thing is, things start really getting good when you just keep on going.
4. Riding is a lot more fun with friends.
It doesn’t matter if I’m by myself or in a group, riding is a blast. Experiencing the world on a bike is completely different from experiencing the world from a car. You feel the air. You smell every smell, including that freshly smashed skunk lying on the side of the road.
That said, riding with friends is so much more fun than riding alone.
As a human race, we gain strength from one another’s influence and examples. Life is so much more interesting and enjoyable as we get to share in each other’s journey. To support, help, and push each other to be more and do more. I see now more than ever that life is not meant to be lived alone.