Coming from a cycling newbie, this may be a bit rich, but it only recently occurred to me that life is a lot like riding a bike. This epiphany, of course, took place on top of a bike during a 24-mile ride over the long weekend.
Think of it this way: both are a bit challenging but equally fun. Both have rules you’ve got to learn so you can bend them, if not break, a little. That’s not all though. Allow me to take you on a ride (excuse the pun) through my discovery.
There are segments
Like any cycling enthusiast, a rookie like me or seasoned, you probably have Strava on your phone and use it with zeal each time you go on a ride. During the recovery following any ride, my favourite past time is to look through my segments. Much like stretches of long country lanes which roll before you, life too has segments.
There are ups and downs
And naturally, some of those segments are fast and furious attacks on the tarmac and some are grinding and gruelling uphill climbs. Much like country lanes, in life as well, what comes up must come down. Every challenging climb which calls for grit and gumption will eventually flatten out and give you some of the best views of rolling hills, and the greatest sense of accomplishment that you’ve looked that hill straight in the eye and made it to the top.
The race is with yourself
With that favourite pastime of looking at segments and achievements on Strava comes the excitement of finding out how well you’ve done on each segment. Now you can look at the list of the day’s or all-time leaders boards and depress yourself or you can look at all your efforts over a particular stretch and learn from the experience. Celebrate the wins, learn from disappointing results, but know that the race is not against anyone else, but between your personal best today and the one you’ll most likely ace tomorrow.
You’re on your own
Much like it’s about achieving your personal best, it’s also about running your own race. Just like life, where we are surrounded by family and friends, acquaintances and colleagues, in a sportive or group ride, we’re surrounded by fellow riders, but when you’re climbing that hill, it’s your feet pedalling away, or when you’re stuck with a puncture, it’s you who’s got to change the tube. After all, we’re all on our own once on that saddle.
Tomorrow is another day
Today’s ride may have been a disaster, but tomorrow you may wake up and ace your personal best. In life too, just like riding a bike, no two days are the same, and thankfully, even at the end of a disastrous day, there’s always the hope that tomorrow is another chance at a fresh start.
You will fall down, and you will get back up
When you’re on top of a bike, one thing’s for sure. Whether early on in your cycling career or much much later, you will eventually come crashing down, which Mr. O painfully discovered in his first sportive back in June after he came off his bike and dislocated a shoulder. Heck, even pros take a fall. Remember British cyclist Chris Frome who ended up in intensive care after a horrific crash during the Criterium du Dauphine in France back in June? Two months later, still recovering from a resulting AC injury, Mr. O is back on the saddle and slowly building up pace. What matters is not the fall but whether you can get back up, dust yourself up and hit the road again. Isn’t that how life also works after all?
Look, Mama; no hands!
Remember when you were first learning how to ride a bike? Possibly your dad – somehow it’s always the dad or an older cousin – was holding on to the back of your seat and your handlebars and telling you to keep the pedals turning. One day, on another one of these practice rides, he let go. The moment you’d discovered he’d let go was also the moment you probably had your first fall, right?
Many rides later, you were the one showing off, “Look, Mama; no hands!” Just like life, riding a bike starts with training wheels and a pair of hands to keep you safe; then slowly you take off the wheels, the hands let go because you’re finally ready to go on your own.
Enjoy the scenery
I can’t begin to explain the thrill of early morning through the mist and the orange glow of the dawning new day. Or a summer evening ride in twilight hours, green fields bathed in a warm glow, sheep staring at you as you wheel past, the distant chime of church bells and the summer breeze on your face. No matter how hard your lungs work or how much your legs will ache tomorrow. it’s those moments that make the ride worthwhile.
And just like that, there are moments in life that take your breath away and make you glad you’re alive, in this very moment, on this very day. Grab it with both hands, savour it for as long as you can. After all, just like cycling, life is also about enjoying the journey and the scenery.