Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No Training Wheels Required

Today I had my first coaching meeting with three women in their fifties who want to ride the STP together this year. These women have almost no experience on a bike and are very concerned about safety in general, and descending in particular. They don’t want to fall off and I don’t blame them. My “Trio” has never even tried modern road or MTB pedals, and they are very apprehensive.

We are going to do a series of group lessons starting with the very basics and progressing through the nuances of group riding. I’ll also be coaching each one individually and developing “training” plans for them. I use the quotes because I don’t think any of the riding they do will be work, and that is what “training” implies.

I don’t expect it will be quite the same for my Trio as if one learns to ride a bike as a kid. For a child, the simple thrill of movement on wheels supersedes all other emotions, and children in general don’t really know what can hurt them until they get hurt. Adults have enough sense to feel intimidated when something can hurt them, and it’s a perfectly normal feeling. That thrill of movement on wheels likely doesn’t happen until an adult feels competent on the bike.

For me coaching is not a j-o-b. I coach because it is very rewarding to share my experiences and help people shorten the learning curve to becoming better and stronger riders. I feel a strong sense of self-satisfaction because I feel that I am making a contribution. Coaching sure beats what I did to put myself in the position to do what I am doing now.

I often work with cyclists who are very focused on peaking for a specific hard one day event or perhaps riding well during a demanding multi-day alpine tour. Working with high level athletes who are very focused on a goal is certainly rewarding, but it is also going to be a real pleasure spending time with the Trio. I can’t wait to see the look on their faces as they discover that clipping into and out of pedals is a simple thing, and that going downhill is fun once you know what you are doing.

These three women are taking a proactive step to improve their quality of life for many years going forward. While they are already physically active and reasonably fit, each one recognizes that it is both mentally and physically stimulating to learn a new skill or sport. Cycling is something that many of us will hopefully take to the grave with us. We will use riding to not only improve the quality of our lives; we will use it to maintain the quality of our lives.

New rider enthusiasm for cycling is very contagious. I wouldn’t be surprised if I rediscover ways to enjoy my own cycling that I have not thought about for many, many miles.

“Learning” to ride a bike in your fifties won’t provide that unique initial joy of movement on two wheels. That likely only happens in its purest form the very first time you ride. What will hopefully develop is the joy of becoming proficient at cycling. That kind of joy is always exciting to share, and I expect our lessons together will be a tremendous amount of fun.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“Friendlies” can be found everywhere

I was at Cougar Mountain doing a few climbs this morning trying to beat the rain. I had taken 152nd off of Newport Way up through Horizon view to the top of the Summit neighborhood. Oftentimes I will pause here to take in one of the most majestic views of Mt. Rainier available short of being at Sunrise.

I had given a little wave to a woman walking her dog just before stopping at the very top. After adjusting my clothing layers, I decided to take a photo of the fast disappearing base of Mt. Rainier. Just as I had put my phone away, the woman called out from the opposite side of the street, inquiring unsolicited as to whether everything was OK. I told her that I was fine, and had stopped to take a photo of what she then called the “Wammer” view. She called out; “Have a great ride!” as she headed up the steps of her multi-million (even in the current market) dollar home. As I rolled downhill toward Forest Drive, Mt. Rainier had pretty much vanished into the rain clouds, but I still had the great view of Newcastle Golf club.

By the time I made my second trip up through Horizon View to the Summit, Rainier was totally gone and I was now in the rain cloud as well. Once again I stopped, this time to take a photo of the house where the “friendly” dwelled. Just as I pointed my phone towards the house, the woman happened to be walking by a front window. I saw her stop and then wave to me through the window!

As I rolled away I noticed the vehicles parked in the driveway. There was a huge black pickup and a tiny little Smart car parked at opposite ends of the drive, almost as if they were avoiding each other.

This time as I headed down I had a different thought in my head. As cyclists, it’s always safest to assume the worst about people and assume that the worst possible thing could occur at any time. This attitude does go a long way towards keeping you on your toes and out of harm’s way. I must admit that for me, my assumptions factor in the type of four wheel vehicle that may be nearby.

Were I to be out on the road and see a great big pickup about to make a left turn in front of me, I would very likely subconsciously react differently than if a Smart Car were in the same spot. Today I was reminded that generalizations don’t always hold true. In the case of the pickup and the Smart Car, I might be making poor judgments about the drivers of what I consider two diametrically opposed vehicles. The very cyclist friendly woman could be driving either one.

I’ll still be as vigilant as ever regardless of what kind of car or truck is around, but you never know where the “friendlies” might actually be. Isn't it great that riding a bike can put a smile on your face even when you are not on the bike, or when you are riding in the rain?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eastern Sierras REI Presentaion: Type II Fun?

Last night David Longdon and I did a multimedia presentation at the Seattle REI as part of the Cascade Bicycle Club Presentation Series. There were over 150 fanatical cyclists in attendance.

David and I spent an hour talking about the fantastic cycling trip we took to the Eastern Sierras in September of last year.

Last night was just another example of why the Sierras trip was not Type II fun. Type II fun occurs when something that was really difficult only becomes fun long after it's over. The Sierras trip was definitely strenuously hard, but it was fun while we were there, and it was fun to re-live it again last night!

I hope to see you on the road...maybe in the Sierra Nevada.