When we were in high school, my brother and I bought pretty nice road bikes. Biking was our main mode of transportation as teens.
We took two big trips one summer. The longest was a 270-mile trek to Itasca State Park in Minnesota. Our first day was quite the adventure. One of our riders had a tire blow out and it took time to get to the next town and to replace the tire. When we made it to our first stop, we had, amazingly, made 100 miles that day! We decided to set camp by a small picnic shelter. That night we were welcomed by rain and tornado warnings and took cover in the small, smelly shelter bathrooms.
We also biked to a church camp, about 125 miles from where we lived. On the way, we asked a farmer if we could pitch our tent in his shelter belt. Later, they invited us in their house for a meal and to sleep in a bedroom. People we didn’t know, extended us amazing hospitality.
The past few years, I’ve been biking more again. There is a very nice, paved bike trail near where we live. I’ve gone to the Black Hills several times to ride with a friend on the Mickelson Trail, a beautiful 110-mile packed gravel trail. Also enjoy hitting gravel roads in the country.
However, there are two things that aren’t much fun for most bikers – hills and wind. Hills are fun going down, not so much going up. For those of you who know me, I’m not very aerodynamic, so wind isn’t fun – ever.
What I’ve realized along the way is that I’ve learned some bike lessons.
– People are generally good and caring. Think of two teenage boys showing up at your house and you inviting them in to offer a room and a meal? People who you meet along the way are interesting and most of them are good.
– Look up. When you’re tired, it’s easy to not see splendor. I’ve seen more wonderful things on a bike ride than any other way I’ve moved around. There is incredible beauty – when we look.
– Steady is better. Finding the right pace is important. It’s easy to start out fast and then have nothing in the tank at the end. Even and steady is better.
– When facing challenges, don’t look too far ahead. When climbing long hills or facing a ride into the wind, it helps me not to look too far ahead. It’s daunting to see all of the hill or how the wind has slowed your pace. Make it to the next tree or to the next fence post or find a marker. You’re not making the whole hill but, making it step by step, piece by piece.
– Others make a difference. Especially on long bike rides, it helps to go with someone. They encourage you, push you, and if they are my friends, make fun of you along the journey. If you’ve ever heard of drafting, it’s amazing. The leader makes it easier for the person following and you take turns helping each other. We need others and they make a difference for us.
– We can accomplish more that we expect. The nice thing about technology, is you can track your speed, distance, and time and compare it to previous runs. It’s nice to be able to push yourself and accomplish new goals. I’ve ridden 100 miles in a day (when I was a lot younger). Finished the entire Mickelson Trail (in segments). Made 60 miles on my 60th birthday. Completed trails when I didn’t think I could go any further. I’ve accomplished some unexpected things.
– Everything has its time. This year, I’ve developed some lower back issues. It’s led to being off the bike for stretches. I’m hoping I can overcome this problem and keep riding, but I also know that everything has a shelf life. Even things you cherish and enjoy, have a time limit. Unfortunately, everything.
Bike lessons might be life lessons.