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Life Lessons from Cycling

Simon Goland


Some thoughts that crossed my mind during, and after, a 300 km bike ride on May 4. As I had plenty of time to think, I was looking at how the basics of cycling can apply to one's life.

Pace yourself. It is 6:00 AM, and the ride is about to begin. There is a certain excitement in the air, and I can feel the adrenalin rushing through me. Perhaps mixed with a bit of fear. Will I make it? And then, when the ride starts, I am cycling fast, running ahead, as if escaping from my own doubts and concerns. After a while, I slow down, relax into the ride, and find the pace that will carry me through, towards the end, about 18 hours later. Just like in life, when you are in for the long ride, slow down and find the pace that will take you to the end. Take a deep breath, look towards the end goal, and find the right pace that will take you there.

Use gears. Gears on a bicycle help us slow down and go faster. More importantly, gears help us find the right speed with the least effort at the right time. Learning how to work our gears, on a bike or in life, can go a long way to helping us in the manner in which we are going anywhere. Learning how to use our gears while cycling, as well as in life, is a life-long lesson. Some of us unfortunately spend our life riding into the wind, pedaling hard, wondering why life is such an effort. Alas, the fastest gear is not always the most efficient one to use.

And, while using gears, listen to your body. On this ride, I discovered that I had a habit of looking at what gear I was on, and whether it is the "right" gear to use on that particular terrain or whether I "should" be switching gears. I don't know where is this habit from, but it made a lot more sense to simply listen to what my legs where telling me. They knew when I needed to gear up or down. Our body always knows what is going on, and is communicating it constantly. Just stop to listen, preferably when it is whispering quietly, before it gets to loud screams.

Parts of the route I was cycling by myself. Parts with other cyclists. At times chatting, and at times being quiet, deep into my own world of thoughts. Just like the balance in life, between being with people, talking and connecting, and taking time for solitude, spending it in the company of your own thoughts. Both are necessary; both are equal partners in a person's life.

And I also reached the "cycling wall" - if there is such a thing. The experience was similar to the wall I hit two years ago, while running the Vancouver marathon. The conversation in my head went something like: "It is cold, I am wet and not enjoying the ride any more, my muscles and knees are tired and in pain, and why am I doing this ride anyway? Why would I even want to think of doing the longer rides?" And, just like in life, when you find yourself in one of these situations, what often works is focusing on one simple thing at a time. One small step after another. And another. And then one more. Just keep the momentum going, for the simple reason that there was a reason to be in that situation, or the bike ride, to begin with. Or even for no reason. This is the only way to move through the pain, both physical and mental. And then it all went away, suddenly, without a warning, and I was back, cycling and enjoying the ride.

And I wish you the same - just move through whatever seems to be impossible at the moment, and enjoy the ride. There is always something on the other side. Defeat is really temporary only. Giving up is what makes it permanent.

"If you want a rainbow, you have to put up with the rain." - Dolly Parson