There’s something about the rush of wind in your hair when you’re cycling that’s totally invigorating. That is, until you find yourself face down on the ground.
As a kid I loved to ride and I often returned home with grazed knees but deliriously happy. Fast forward a few decades and the kid is now a woman of 52 who, aside from the occasional social cycle, hasn’t ridden in years.
However, a recent invitation to participate and write an article on the Great Victorian Bike Ride in November has prompted me to once again tackle the saddle.
And so the training, and the lessons have begun.
1. You don’t need all the fancy gear
As nice as it would be to be colour co-ordinated in sexy lycra cycling gear, I’m making do in my leggings and comfy tops. I have a bike (albeit a recycled one from the neighbours), a helmet, decent shoes and the motivation to get out there.
Just like life, it’s nice to have the “fancy stuff” but not necessary. It’s more about getting out there with what we have and making the best of it, appreciating that what we have is enough.
2. There will always be someone passing you
When I’m riding there’s always someone who passes me, someone pedalling harder, someone going faster, looking professional and like they’ve been doing it for years. Yep, they probably have. But I figure, they had to start somewhere too.
There’s no need for comparison yet, for some reason, we have this innate compulsion to compare our achievements with those of others. We’re all at different stages of our journey and it’s totally okay to move at our own pace.
Does it matter when we arrive so long as we do.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions
The cycling trails around Melbourne are mighty confusing. Twists and turns and forks in the paths with little or no signage. Despite it being virtually my backyard, even with my phone and google maps I’ve had to stop to ask cyclists for directions. And without a doubt, every time, they’ve been helpful and obliging.
There’s no shame in not knowing exactly where we’re going. It’s fine to seek guidance when we’re at cross roads in life. Sometimes another opinion, or advice, whether taken or not, can help us gain perspective.
4. Be single focused and have a plan
When I set off on my bike I always have an idea of my route (even when I get lost!) It might vary slightly along the way but with a clear destination at least I know roughly I’m going in the right direction. It gives the ride purpose.
Similarly in life, if you don’t have a plan you’re not going to go anywhere. It’s easy but no fun to drift aimlessly. Whereas it’s much more satisfying to chart a route and measure our progress. Even if it changes, at least you have a plan.
5. It doesn’t matter how far you go
My first big ride a couple of weeks ago was about 50kms. We pushed ourselves and mapped an ambitious route. It nearly killed my legs! But I’ve since learned I have more stamina than I thought and that those hills are surmountable when I really push myself.
On and off the bike the trick is moving forwards, one step at a time. It doesn’t matter how far we go and if there are days when we seem to be barely coasting, or we have to get off the bike and walk, the important thing is that we don’t stop. We keep moving towards our goals and dreams.
6. Recognise the triumphs along the way
I wasn’t sure how far I could ride. With every kilometre that passed I was aware of moving ahead, slowly but surely. It felt hugely motivating to stop for lunch having conquered a few kilometres and small hills.
Seeing these colourful rosellas when we stopped was a chance to appreciate the small moments of the journey. As cliched as it sounds, it’s important to slow down, smell those roses and appreciate how far we’ve come.
These two cheeky birds clearly know life is good.
7. Balance is the key
We all know that balance is the key to riding successfully, just as it is in life in general. Sometimes the ride is fast but sometimes it’s necessary to slow down and be mindful of where we are and what’s going on around us. Just like a bike rider scans his surroundings to stay safe.
Often unexpected things cross our paths but when we’re in the moment we stay on track. And when we’re mindful we’re achieving a good balance. Then again …
8. If you focus on the obstacle you’ll head straight into it
Last Saturday, on the home stretch, after five hours of riding, I lost focus and control. As I rode down a steep path I noticed the kerb. It was sharp, uneven and I remember thinking ‘stay away from that edge’.
Had I simply looked straight ahead I might have avoided what happened next. I lost control. Came down hard, in a tangled heap around my bike, bruising and scraping several parts of my body and my thumb, which took a big impact. It was such a shock.
9. Focus on what matters
If I’d been looking anywhere but that kerb I most likely would have rode smoothly down that steep path, just as I had all the others. Had I focused on what was beyond the obstacle and paced my speed I probably wouldn’t have fallen.
In life we have a tendency to focus on issues and problems. It can be a challenge to lift our gaze and remind ourselves that there’s more to life than what’s right in front of us.
Find balance and we can get through anything.
10. Enjoy the ride
Okay I’m bumbling along, achieving small milestones and slowly building up to a level of fitness that will see me tackle this challenge in November.
Time is precious and life is short. It’s good to challenge ourselves, step out of our comfort zone and tackle things we might otherwise not even consider.
Like in many areas of life there’s bound to be some pain along the way, but the suffering is optional. I’m getting on with things and once the soreness subsides I’ll be back on my bike again.
How about you? Are you taking on any new challenges this month?
Have a sensational September and don’t be scared to try something new.
If there’s one more thing life’s taught me, it’s that, with the right mindset, we can always bounce back, stronger than ever.
Stay safe, keep smiling and keep enjoying the journey.
In light and love
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