What I Have Learned from Riding a Bike

I have loved to ride my bike since I was a kid, and while on vacation in July enjoyed many long rides around the remote two-lane highways of Michigan. On these rides, I reflected on what riding a bike has taught me about life and work.

RideFocus on the road ahead. There is no place for “heads down” in cycling. Scanning the road ahead is necessary to avoid hazards up ahead – potholes, gravel piles, car doors and small dogs to name a few! If you only focus on the view beneath your wheels, you will not have time enough to see and respond to what is coming down the road. Look up and look ahead!

Don’t hold on too tight. Holding the handlebars too tightly tenses your muscles and uses up energy you will need later – in your ride or in your day. Plus, it leaves you with really sore shoulders and forearms. Holding on with a light grip allows you to be more responsive and flexible to what you encounter on your ride. Lighten up!

The hills make you stronger. My kids roll their eyes when I recite this mantra on our annual 30-mile Tour Dallas ride each year, and I wonder if they are poking fun at me or the size of the hills in Dallas. Grunting up a hill builds muscle memory and prepares you for the next ride and the next hill. Once you make it up a particularly tough hill, whether in Texas or Michigan, the next one doesn’t look so bad. Plus, for every hill you struggle to go up, you get to fly down the other side! Wheee!

Enjoy being “in the groove.” Cyclists strive for a special kind of zen called cadence, which is the ideal count of revolutions of your foot/pedal measured per minute, but it doesn’t always come easily. Every once in a while, a ride comes along where good cadence comes effortlessly; you don’t realize you are working and the rhythm of your pedal stroke blocks out any distractions. Up/down, push/pull, up/down, push/pull … and next thing you know you are almost at the end of your ride. Cadence = flow in the world of work. Enjoy it when you have it!

Determination will get you places that expensive gear won’t. I ride a feather light bike with the latest components – in my dreams! My reality ride is a 20-year-old faded frame with downtube shifters (do they even make them like that anymore?) and heavy, hand-me-down clipless pedals. But I have faced down tough hills, wicked headwinds and crazy traffic throughout Arizona, Texas and Michigan. I may not be winning any races, but through determination and hard work I get the miles in and get home in one piece. Hard work trumps hardware!

Not every ride has to be a training ride. This has been the most important lesson of all. When I first started riding, I focused on mileage and speed. Both are still important to me, but now I take more time to take in the view while I ride by. I have even been known to stop for a picture once in a while! Enjoy the ride!

Go on … get out your bike and go for a ride! I promise it is just as much fun now as it was when you were a kid.

Image Credit: Juliet Nelson

Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults. She rides a chromoly Specialized Allez in Too Pink with Shimano 105 grupo. You can reach her at hnelson@www.people-results.com or on Twitter at @HeatherGNelson1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.