Work is bearing down on you, your family is driving you crazy, and your car won’t start. We’ve all had days like these when the entire universe appears to be rooting against us and we’d do anything to catch a break. So how could you possibly turn a day like this around? My very simple advice is to go ride your bike. Try getting out on two wheels, even for half an hour if that’s all you can muster. I have learned that going for a ride is one of the best possible ways to clear your head. It is on these sanity restoring rides that I have learned some of life’s most important lessons.
Lesson #1: Be nice to people. Proper trail etiquette gets you a long way on multi-use trails. Wear a bell, tell other trail users how big your group is and say thank you when they move off the trail to accommodate you. Everyone has an equal right to enjoy this beautiful world we live in. Also karma is a cruel mistress.
Lesson #2: The greater the risk, the greater the reward. Sometimes you just need to put on your big boy pants and go for gold. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll at least have a good story.
Lesson #3: Pick your battles. The bigger you go, the harder you will fall. Ask yourself, “Do the risks outweigh the rewards, do I lack the the appropriate skills to succeed, is there a good chance that if I do this I will die?” If the answer is “yes” to one or more of these questions, maybe you should hone your skills a bit more and let someone else take the risk this time.
Lesson #4: Use protection. Whether you go for a standard road helmet or something a little more futuristic, protect your head. Bikes are dangerous and accidents happen. We want you to be able to remember the rest of these lessons… and your name.
Lesson #5: Patience is a virtue for a reason. It’s easier to fix a problem with patience than by throwing a hissy fit. Hold onto your bike, assess the situation and start working towards the solution.
Lesson #6: Share your wisdom with others. Be willing to help newer, less experienced riders…we were all there once. The intricacies of this sport can get complicated for every level of rider so never hesitate to give advice when it’s asked for or to seek it out when it’s needed. Check out our learning center if you feel like brushing up on your mechanic skills, want to learn how to get the proper fit on your bike or any of numerous other bike related tasks.
Lesson #7: Great friends are hard to come by and teamwork pays huge dividends. Whether it is taking a longer pull, sharing a spare tube, or helping your pal do his business, do your part to help out your riding buddies. You never know, it might be you asking for help next time. (You probably wish you had friends nice enough to hold your bike while you “use the facilities.”)
Lesson #8: Don’t do drugs. They may seem like a good idea at the time but getting caught and stripped of all your Tour De France victories just isn’t worth it. Actually never mind, drugs are bad but this lesson is actually entitled “don’t be a jerk.” That will definitely catch up with you.
Lesson #9: No one is perfect. You will make mistakes in your life, you will crash on your bike and it will be entirely your fault. This is okay. Take the necessary time to recollect yourself and keep making forward progress. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.
Lesson #10: There will be obstacles. Circumstances may arise that are entirely out of your control. Believe in your own skills to dodge these little surprises and with a little luck, things will be better on the other side.
Lesson #11: With the right attitude anything is possible. Humans are capable of so much, both on and off the bike. All it takes to do the impossible is to have the right attitude, the right motivation and the willingness to work hard at it. If you really put your mind to it, one day you too can drink champagne with no hands while riding in the Tour De France. Just like Spartacus.
Lesson #12: Put your head down and do the work. After you clear your head with a ride, it’s time to get back to reality and get down to business. It is easy to get bogged down with too many responsibilities and start looking for excuses to make your failure more bearable. Don’t fall into this trap. Enter the pain cave and put in the time to develop yourself. The seemingly impossible will become your daily routine and the mountain will get smaller. With the right training, you can become more capable than you ever thought possible.
Lesson #13: Take the time to celebrate your victories. You worked hard and you succeeded. Live. It. Up.
Bonus: This little girl is awesome. Bikes are awesome. You are awesome.
Rubber Side Down is a weekly column dedicated to the fledgling cyclist in all of us. Art’s Cyclery Web Content Editor Jerald Westendorf is not a professional cyclist, and doesn’t try to masquerade as one either, but he does love to ride bikes. Whether you are clipping in for the first time or counting down the days until your first race, read on, learn from his mistakes, and keep the rubber side down.