Life’s nice on two wheels. It’s less complicated, the learning is good, and answers come quickly. I can learn from my relationships, from my children, especially. Stephen King Junior is giving me lessons on how to write action, his verbs are sublime and he sets mood way better than me. He’s a punk and my bike hasn’t taught me how to deal with my jealousy.
Still, if you’re lucky you can learn everyday, and your bike is the fast dirt-track. Here’s how.
Don’t look at what you don’t want to hit
Obstacles – roots, rocks, ruts, for the urbanites among us, a parked car, a pedestrian, a drain – you don’t want to look at them directly because the bike goes where your eyes send it. Antidote? Look for the gaps. Take a path amid obstacles and stay upright.
How does this rule apply to life?
Looking at things for too long, that’s dwelling.
I’ve spent the last year trying to ‘move on’ with the loss of my sister. I got counseling, I read, I wrote, I tackled my grief and for a few months, longer, my examination worked. But when did my delving become dwelling? Sometimes you don’t know you’re depressed until everything you love is difficult.
Grief is an obstacle. It’s there. What if with grief, and other hitches on my highway – illness, work frustrations, parenting dilemmas – I acknowledge them, give them their space, and pass on by?
Momentum is your friend.
Some obstacles can’t be passed and you have to take them head-on. Loosen your arms, lift your bum and roll over them. Bumpy, but made.
A great way to a crash is too much brake. Rather than slowing down, and snagging a tire on a rut, or a rock, or the curb, let go of your brakes and roll. This sounds a lot like it could be helpful with rule number one. You don’t have to be stylish, you can rattle through if need be, momentum gets things done.
After my world famous (house famous) novel was published I was often asked, ‘How do you write a book? My answers vary but at that time, when I could see with the shabby eyes of experience, I said, ‘Momentum. You sit down and type and type and type. The story gets its own drive and soon you’re typing to catch up.’
Do what you’re doing, build on what you have built, lean on muscle memory, and use your momentum.
Sleep with confidence under your pillow
Bike riding is a confidence game, especially off road. If you baulk at a log, a rut, a drop off, a hill, you’re finished. If you don’t believe your bike won’t either.
I’m best off road when I don’t know what’s coming. If I turn a corner and am surprised by an obstacle I don’t have time to shut down. When I see the same obstacle next time round I can go either of two ways. ‘Crap, there’s that rock garden again!’ and too much brake, too much brain, I’m off. Or, ‘Yay, there’s that rock garden again!’ Confidence.
How do I know confidence is a factor in life? Because for the last few months I’ve had not nearly enough. Depression will do that to you. I’ve got a novel I’m struggling with because I have zero belief in it. The novel can’t be that bad, I’m still me, but with no bravado, no big sense of you can do this I want to set fire to it. Can someone pass the matches? Please?
If you’re not feeling it, don’t
The older I get the longer it takes me to warm up. Especially if I’m on my road bike. I spend the first twenty minutes thinking anywhere but here is a better option. I’m stiff, sore, my bum hurts, and frankly, I can’t be bothered. Most days I push through. I know that in half and hour I’ll dig into the pain and love it. And failing that, I can hang my helmet on knowing, in advance, the good mood of a finished ride. Satisfaction, sweat and a diet coke.
Then there are the days when I’m not feeling it. Days when I know from the first pedal stroke that I’m done.
It’s okay to leave it until you are better able. And it’s okay if you leave it so long that you grow out of your bike clothes (yeah, Nicki, you keep telling yourself that…).
Days off the bike are required.
So are days off work, off worry, off The Grind. Give yourself permission to rest, it doesn’t have to be a beach holiday it can simply be watching a movie with your kids, a walk with your loved one, a whole day doing ‘nothing’.
Make the most of nothing
Here is a saying I didn’t make up, ‘stop and smell the roses.’ Off road cyclists have a reputation for flying through the bush, thrashing through undergrowth, and leaving blood and skin on the trail. It’s deserved. But that doesn’t mean we don’t value where we ride. We know our trails closely. We maintain them. And we take time out. We lean our bikes against a tree and just sit. We listen. On a windy day leaves swishing sound likes a waterfall.
Off road, on my bike, has taught me a lot about nothing.
If you sit still long enough you can feel your smallness. You can feel your little place in the world, how you’re like a tree, a grasshopper, that duck floating by. Look at how the water ripples ahead of him, how it seems to swell and roll into his chest and look at the formation the water makes beyond him, it extends further than I can see. A little duck did that.
Birds, animals, trees, trails make their impact on the world and you make yours. Stop and take a look at it. It’s an energy thing, I think. Doing nothing brings you closer to everything.
that’s Hilda. one of us is taking a photo and the other is doing nothing