Ever since I first started riding mountain bikes in the early 2000s, I’ve regarded the act of bicycle riding itself (and eventually bicycle racing) as a direct parallel to life. A metaphor, if you will. I know I’m not proclaiming anything novel when I say this. The majority of you reading the Speedbloggen, I’m sure, have already come to a similar realization. Not all of you. But still, an honest handful. Which is all we can ask for sometimes.
Much like life, when you think you’ve made a breakthrough or figured out some sliver of something on the bike, your tire hits an unexpected rock. The curb. A knotted root. And before you can take a breath, you’re on the ground wondering what the hell happened. Sprawled there, elbows embedded with gravel. A slight trickle of red just below one knee cap. Your jostled mind slowly searching for bearings and a handrail.
But falling, believe it or not, does not mean you’re back at square one. Everything you have learned up until the juncture of face and ground was worthwhile. All was not a farce. Your breakthroughs were valid. You, indeed, had figured some things out. And ultimately, you had progressed. The act of crashing did not, and does not, necessarily invalidate any previous findings or evolutions. They’re still there and you are not a failure. On the contrary, the stumbles are more a reminder that, hellooo, it never ends. There’s always something new to be gained. To be learned. To absorb. Assimilate. Experience. Bicycles or life, it doesn’t matter, absolutely nothing is seamless.
I digress. The intention here is not to prep you for an exposition on how and why you should get back on “the bike” when you fall off. We’re not in kindergarten. What I am prepping you for, however, is a new kind of experience, subjectively speaking. It’s called single speeding. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps you tried it during your experimental college years. Maybe you loathe it. Don’t get it. Or possess a passionate love affair with its monotheistic ways. Regardless of your relations, single speeding is a parallel within the aforementioned parallel (see paragraph one) of bicycles and life. And that is what’s important.
Basically, if I were to rewrite this entire blog post in the form of a standardized test problem, it might look something like this: Bicycle racing is to life as single speeding is to ________. Given the following answer choice options: a. watching TV; b. crack; c. life approach; d. a cult following; e. both b and d—which would, more or less, be correct? While several make rational enough sense, the one that fulfills the correlation is answer choice c., life approach.
Option c also happens to be the conclusion arrived at after racing an actual single speed, one Sunday in May, at McCubbins Gulch. No, I’m not about to tell you how I won or could have won. Because I didn’t (and we all know how I could have: ride faster, duh). I wasn’t even close. And so, no, single speeding did not become my savior. Nor the secret to winning bike races. Nor the answer to it all. It did, however, make me think about life approach.
Having dabbled in riding a one-geared bike years ago (and by dabble I mean tried it, like, three times), this past Sunday was a veritable first. Really, I don’t think I understood the nature of the beast prior to this point. I often wondered why others would choose only one gear. I didn’t get it. The thing is, though, I think we need to be ready for it. The not having a choice to shift up or down when things gets hard. We need to have reached a point in our lives where we are alright with making a decision and moving forward. Steadily, and with minimal hesitation or judgment. Fully. Otherwise it won’t work. We won’t move forward. In all honesty, I think single speeding comes to us as much as we come to it. Chicken or the egg, right? Did I ask for single speeding or did it ask for me?
The answer is both and all of the above. Because, new riding styles or life approaches, we all find all when we need to.