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Five Life Lessons from Riding a Mountain Bike

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biking-723599-mI had wanted to buy a mountain bike for a few years now. With every passing year, the desire to buy a mountain bike was getting stronger, as was the realisation that I was not getting any younger. In a few years, even if I did buy a mountain bike I would not be able to make the best use of it. So, a few months back, after giving it a lot of thought, I bought a mountain bike. Here, I am going to share a few life lessons that I have learnt while riding my bike.

When you want something really bad, you will find a way, and the universe will conspire to get you the thing you want.

As I said in the beginning, I had been planning to buy a mountain bike for a while now. However, there was always something that prevented me from buying the bike. In hindsight, I think the fact was that I never wanted to buy the bike as badly as this year.

First, a couple of friends at work also got interested in buying a mountain bike. Then, because this was something I wanted, I began to meet people who already owned a bike.  As we  discussed about the bikes and the trails  around town, the desire to buy the bike became stronger. The will of many is stronger than the will of one, and three of us at work decided to go ahead and buy the bikes. The idea of buying a mountain bike became a reality. Mountain bikes, however, don’t come cheap and thinking about buying one was one thing, and actually going ahead and buying it was another.

But, when we approached  the seller, he was kind enough to allow us to make the payments in instalments, and those too at our own convenience. It turned out that he was interested in making mountain biking popular in our town and wanted to make owning a mountain bike easier for the people interested in buying them.

This whole episode was a reminder that when we want to do something, or when we want something, most of the obstacles exist in our minds. Unless and until we go ahead and try, we won’t know whether the thing is attainable or not. As we embark on our journey towards our heartfelt desires, most of the roadblocks take care of themselves, and the rest can be managed with varying degrees of effort.

The question that you need to ask yourself is: How badly do you want it?

Things are always difficult in the beginning, but if you persist, they get simpler.

The first day when I rode the bike, I began to tire almost immediately. I had to stop for a break after the first few hundred metres. I immediately began to wonder whether I had made a mistake. Maybe this was not something I was meant to do.

Somehow, I kept going – that day and the next, and then for a few more days until it began to get easier and I started to enjoy it. It was  not just me who felt this way, but my friends had a similar experience as well. Though riding the bike was tough at first, soon we were able to take on tough climbs and steep downhills.

When we haven’t done a thing,  doing it seems difficult, almost impossible. Things don’t get easier even as soon as we start doing the thing. But, if we persist for a little bit more, things begin to get simpler. Here is a great TEDx talk on how you can learn anything if you manage to stick with it for the first 20 hours.

Set higher targets and goals.

Even before I had bought the bike, I had thought about going to my home town on a mountain bike. My home town is around 80 kms from where I presently live, and the route has many steep climbs. Most people that I shared my idea with either laughed at it, or simply told me it was impossible. But, not minding them, that is the target I set for myself.

I have still not done it, and I think it will be a while before I do. But I have managed to travel almost 35 kms of uphill and downhill at a time in these past three months. If I had set a lesser target, I would have been satisfied with what I have already done, and there would be little incentive for me to try harder and travel more.

 In life, too, it is important that we set targets for ourselves that are slightly beyond our reach, because only then will we be forced to move out of our comfort zone. Unless we challenge ourselves, we can never know what we are capable of.  Of course, setting too high a target can be counter productive as failure to achieve the high goals you have set for yourself can be frustrating. But, it is better to set higher goals, rather than smaller ones.

Regular practice will get you where you thought you could never go.

Every time I ride my mountain bike, I learn something new. Some days, the learning is bout the bike, and on other days it is about the riding. As I practice my riding I am able to ride better, longer, and for greater distances.

I am sure most of us have grown up listening to the adage, “Practice makes Perfect”. There is great truth in the statement. Whatever you want to do in life, you have to practice to do it better. In fact, it is not just practice, but deliberate practice that makes you better at anything. In their paper on the making of an expert, the authors say that:

 …excellence is simply the result of practicing daily for years or even decades. However, living in a cave does not make you a geologist. Not all practice makes perfect. You need a particular kind of practice—deliberate practice—to develop expertise. When most people practice, they focus on the things they already know how to do. Deliberate practice is different. It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well—or even at all.

Sometimes the road goes uphill, and sometimes it goes downhill,  but if you enjoy the view, the journey is always fun.

Going up a hill requires a lot of effort, and coming down the hill requires an equal amount of concentration. It is easy to get lost in the effort and forget to enjoy the ride. I usually did, as my entire focus was on riding the bike. One day, as I was riding a longer than usual distance, I was trying my best to take on a an steep incline. My brain was entirely focused on my legs pushing the pedal. For a moment, it was as if  the world did not exist for me. But, the next moment I was brought back to reality with a beautiful view of the valley covered in fog. The fog was slowly lifting, and the sun rays were breaking through the fog. It was as If I was in the sky, playing with the clouds and the sun.

The view was always there, but since my focus was only on the bike, I was missing it. That, in fact, took some of the fun out of the riding itself. I have, therefore, made it a point to enjoy the view  where ever I may be riding.

Isn’t this true for life as well? Sometimes, we have good things happening to us, and at other times, things might not be so good. If we let them, then things can affect us to a greater degree than they should. Neither happiness nor sadness is everlasting.  That is what we should always remember. Whatever may be happening in our lives, we should never forget the fact that we are alive. However busy we may get, we should never ignore  the gift of life that has been bestowed upon us.

(Image courtesy: AAD from sxc.hu)

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3 Comments

  1. I have recently purchased a bike, and love it. I get tired but keep on rolling when I can. I have a dutch style with a basket, and it gets me to the library and I can bring home my precious reading material. I ride along the coastline when not windy, and feel free. Enjoy your bike.

  2. Great analogy and life lessons. I like the idea of the universe conspiring with us and have read that concept before. Wanting something bad enough changes what we look for — the opportunities and open doors.

    As for the mountain biking– I live in mt biking capital in Colorado. I tried it a couple times. I would much rather work hard uphill than the thrill and scare of downhill! Yikes! I’ll stick to my road bike. I don’t mind the sweat.

  3. Great going buddy. Mountain bike does take those 20 hrs. Once you are through its as easy as breathing.

    🙂

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