I have been learning life lessons while riding my bike (my beloved Lectric eBike). It is not as simple as the old adage goes, “Just like riding a bike.” I have been working on it for a while.
My balance is still wobbly no matter how long I can stand on one foot before falling over. I now understand why my doctor explained the stork stance exercise rather than showing me.
I am always a bit tense while riding and am afraid of falling. I have only fallen twice on my electric bike. The first time happened on the first day I rode it and I was not actually on my bike, just standing next to it. I gripped what turned out to be the throttle and, never one to give up, I held on. I held the throttle even after I was on the ground, the bike was on me and speeding up. Oh, yeah. That was a failure to read the directions thoroughly…
The second time was yesterday. I still go into mild moments of panic where my eyes widen and my heart pumps when I spot an obstacle ahead. It could be anything from a tight turn, a small branch, a pothole or, the terror of all terrors, a small child on a bike wobbling as much as me.
As a safety measure, I have learned to apply my brakes and just stop when I get close to an obstacle. Then I proceed with caution. I’ve quickly learned to apply the back brake harder than the front, which helps not catapult me over the handlebars.
Yesterday, there seemed to be more than a weekday’s share of obstacles on the bike/walking trail. I avoided two gentlemen, who evidently did not hear my scream of “Biker on the left!” I avoided them by stopping the bike in a bush. It was a bit embarrassing when I had to pass them again after having straightened out. Seems their hearing improved and they practically hopped into the bushes as I passed.
Then came a tight turn on a hill with drop-offs. I wasn’t turning well, I was going too fast and I was headed toward the side I was trying to avoid: the one with the drop-off. I braked. But I was past the pavement, into the rocks and grass. I stepped down, into the air, and knowing what was coming next, gently let the bike down, again on top of me. As I was slowly falling, I was trying desperately to remember the AARP article on how to land on your bottom and not break a wrist. The hill was soft, so thankfully I had no broken bones.
The panic, braking, stopping, and rolling into the bushes around a sharp curve is exhausting. Did I mention that I am not so great at curves? It is amazing that I like riding so much.
Then, the epiphany. The life lesson. The thing to remember. I lifted my bike and realized I had to quit looking at what to avoid and start looking at where I wanted to go. I had to stop unwittingly steering toward the obstacle and braking. And I had to, with intention, note the obstacle but steer where I needed to go. Into the bushes was not the place!
Euphemisms and quotes abound: “Keep your eye on the prize!” “Don’t give up!” “Look forward not back!” “Focus on the future since that’s where you’re going!” “Look up, always. Look back, never!” “The magic of life is about looking forward, not looking around and worrying.”
Those quotes have not been lost on me, but it is difficult to focus on where I want to go instead of avoiding something. There are a lot of obstacles to avoid, on the bike trail and in life. But just avoiding all obstacles is truly exhausting and slows down where I want to go.
Today, my ride was much smoother: no bushes, no sudden stops, and the curves were nicely rounded.
The question in a broader sense then becomes: “Am I going to brake and stop to avoid the hazards in my life? Or am I going to keep peddling to go where I want to go?”