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.

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