Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lessons Learned from Living on My Bike

--> Since I turned 50, I’ve pedaled over 15,000 miles through 33 states. That includes three trips across North America, northern US, southern US, and central US, down both coasts, and up the Mississippi. I’ve cycled alone and with a diversity of companions, including 4500 miles with an 11-yr-old girl and her 2-yr-old twin sisters. I’ve learned a few lessons in the process, which generally apply to life.
1.     Less is More. Put everything you think you need to live onto a bicycle and start pedaling. Before you crest the first hill, you will have figured out how to get along without much of it. Possessions are burdens.
2.     Anticipate the Best but Prepare for the Worst. The best way to dissolve fear is to know exactly what you would do in the worst-case scenario. Fear is not a healthy motivator, while love is.
3.     Lower Your Center of Gravity. If you carry your load in a backpack, besides being sweaty and heavy, it destabilizes. On top of a rack is okay for light things, but most of the load belongs in low riding panniers, where it actually stabilizes. Use your tools to optimize stability. Stay grounded.
4.     Breathe, Drink, Eat, Wash, & Sleep. You can’t do anything until you take care of the essentials, including lots of pure water, a wholesome diet, and bathing to avoid saddle sores. Long, slow, deep breaths are the most basic. Build routines around your fundamental needs.
5.     Fix it Before it’s a Problem. Daily cleaning of the chain prevents wear. Properly adjusted bearings last much longer. Lubrication before rust makes more sense.
6.     Stretch Regularly. After you pedal eight hours a day for a week, walking down a staircase can be excruciating, unless you do yoga too. You maintain flexibility and range of motion by regularly testing your limits in every direction.
7.     The Most Experienced Rider Follows the Pack. The lead rider should know the route and set a moderate pace. The sweep rider, last in line, should have the tools and knowledge to fix any problem that happens. From the back, you can see everybody and they can hear you. Most of leadership is supporting others.
8.     Hold Your Line. The safest cyclist is visible and predictable, riding steadily out from obstacles. Suddenly veering out to avoid something can get you killed. Plan a straight course by looking far enough ahead.
9.     Sometimes You Take the Lane. If there’s not enough room for a car to safely pass you, the safest place to be is in the middle of the lane. You’ve got to be brave enough to assert your right to the road. Timidity can be fatal.
10. Momentum is Our Friend. The speed you gain on the downhill can help a great deal going up the next hill. Go with the flow and use the forces of nature to achieve your goals.
11. Only Stop at the Top. Everybody needs an occasional break. If you rest in a valley, you’ll have a lot tougher time getting started again than if you rest on top of the hill. Wait until you’ve accomplished something big to reward yourself. Then look for a shady spot, because you can’t cool down well in direct sun. When you finally find shade on a hilltop, you'll have earned your break.
12. Concentrate on Spin. No matter where you ride, it will be easiest if you devote your attention to the precise application of your gears, legs, ankles, and feet to turning those cranks to an uplifting song(about 100 rpms). Stay in the moment.
13. You Can. I’m just a normal guy, not some super athlete. Living car-free for 17 years has greatly improved my life, mostly because it brought me a little closer to my own ideals. Please allow yourself to live up to your brightest dreams.7