“Life is like riding a bike. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.”—Albert Einstein
Remember the Smothers Brother’s Comedy TV show of the ‘60’s? If you don’t, it was a comedy show done by two brothers, Tom and Dick Smothers, that were American Folk Singers. I watched more than a few of their shows. Anyway, one of the skits they did in each show was about two old men in a park. One was sitting on a park bench and the other would ride up on his tricycle–yes, I said, tricycle. They would have some crazy conversation and, at the end of the skit, the old man on the tricycle would fall over. It was funny.
This post is about both of these: “Life is like a bicycle” is a metaphor for life, especially my life. There are uphill’s and downhills, and sometimes flat places. Then there is the rain, the wind, the hot days of summer, and the cold days of summer. However, you will have to wait to the end of this story before I get back to the two old men above.
The downhill rides can be exciting and exhilarating. Sometimes dangerous as you go roaring down a mountainside. Even thirty mph on a bike is kind of scary. Fun, but a little scary. What if one of the tires goes flat? Or I hit something in the road? A deer or small animal runs across the road? All kinds of bad things can happen. Mr. Murphy is out there just waiting to throw a wrench in the works (a.k.a. Murphy’s Law). And for every downhill, there is an uphill. Damn! Sometimes, I feel like most of my roads are uphill, in both directions! I love the down hills.
The flat places I like too–especially as I have gotten in better shape over the last several months of extended riding. On a flat stretch I can now get all the way up to my highest gear and just be cruising along. I do like just pedaling along down the road. Here in the foothills of SC where I live, there are not many flat stretches, or they tend to be short lived. Out West, where I grew up in Texas, there were a lot of flat, wide open, long stretches of road. Flat stretches can get boring if you are on them for too many miles. Around here, I don’t get a chance to get bored.
Uphills can be bitches. I have to keep telling myself that they are the ones that really build endurance, muscle, and character. No pain, no gain, etc. They put hair on your chest, as I always used to tell my kids when they were young. My daughters would quickly point out that they did not want hair on their chests! My son remained silent. He was staying out of it.
The uphills build resilience and determination to get you through the tough times. I try to reframe that they are “challenges.” Not fun maybe, but they get the job done. I love the satisfaction of having “conquered” a hill, often reflecting back on how difficult it was the first or few times I did them. Now, often, I don’t even need to stop and rest after topping a hill that was a “killer” the first time I did it. Now, I, can keep on riding. The uphills are the tough places in our lives. I am reminded of Neitche’s, “What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.”
We all have a lot of uphills and downhills in our lives. At this age in my life, thankfully, I also have quite a few nice stretches of flat road too, metaphorically speaking. Or, maybe, it is more that uphill, downhill, flat road, it is just riding. Not good riding, not bad riding, just riding, trying to stay present in each minute without judgement or thought. Equanimity and mindfulness. Very Zen.
Every ride on a bicycle can be an adventure. Life can get boring without some variety–some adventure–in one’s life. Hell, just staying alive on the road on a bicycle can be an adventure. I am thankful every time I return safely from a ride. Adventures on a bicycle can be as simple as turning left instead of right.
Uphills and downhills offer a lot of variety. And, variety stimulates the old body and brain. Couple variety with exercise, like bicycling, and you’re talking huge mind, body, mental, and emotional health benefits. And then there is the rain.
Everyone gets some rain in their life from time to time. Everyone’s parade gets rained on sometime. I usually hate ridding in the rain. I have good rain gear, but the water gets in anyhow. In the summer time, a little shower cancel good. Basically, I try to avoid riding in the rain. Then there is also the wind, heat, and cold.
I good tailwind can be great, sort of like a downhill run. The headwinds fight you every step of the way, making you work harder. Around here, the wind is not usually too bad. Even a 12-15 mph headwind can quickly tire you out though. I hate riding when it is too hot or too cold. As I have gotten older, the “too” range has gotten narrower and narrower. My preferred riding temps are in the 60-low to 80’s rang. Pretty wimpy, no? Okay, back to our two old men.
When I was watching those Smothers’ Brothers programs, I was in my mid-teens. Now, I am that old man. This is how I feel when I’m coming in from a hard ride and am dog tired. (No disrespect to my two dogs, Morgan and Lacy.) By the time I get close to home, I am usually so tired that I’ll only come to a rolling stop at stop signs, etc., for example, unless there is traffic. That is because I am afraid if I stop, I’ll just fall over like that old man on the Smothers’ Brothers Show. And be too tired to even get up. Sigh.
When it is all said and done though, I reckon I’ll keep on pedaling.