After years of being terrified to bike in the city, I finally bought the above baby from a girl moving out of my building in March. It’s the best $100 I’ve spent this year. Also, here are a few things anyone can learn/be reminded of, from biking:
1. Everyone thinks the road belongs to them.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a biker, a pedestrian, or a driver, everyone somehow thinks the road belongs to them; everyone thinks they have the right of way. It becomes a reminder that people are probably not thinking about you much of the time – they are mostly thinking about themselves. Remember that the next time you think a stranger is doing something to you that has the potential to ruin your day. It’s probably not to you or about about you, it’s about them. Once you realize that, it’s easier not to sweat the small stuff.
2. Courage is more important than skill.
Skill, for the most part, can be learned. Many of us learned how to bike when we were kids. And biking the city, whether you’re a child or an adult, does take some skill. But more importantly, it involves courage: The courage to do it knowing that you are smaller than the SUV next to you, or to get on your bike the next day even though you got caught in the rain yesterday. This courage teaches you that if there is something you want – whether it’s the romantic attention of someone, or to make a difference in some way, or a new career, or a new life – how “good” you are is not as important as how brave you are.
3. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make you get better.
Dispel any notion that one day you’re going to be perfect. Sure, you become familiar with certain routes and you know the psychology of drivers better with each passing day. But no matter how good you are, you’ll never be perfect. Not only because of the unpredictability of the day, but because perfection is not really the goal. It’s really about getting from one point to another, and with a certain kind of freedom as you ride. Life is sort of like that, isn’t it? Getting from one point to another, and with a certain kind of freedom. And you get there…without perfection.
4. Don’t try something new half-heartedly – really give it a chance.
Trying anything new starts in the mind and heart before anywhere else. Even something like biking. Loads of people want to bike, and some people might even try it out. But only with half a heart in it. And much like anything else, if you put half your heart into it, you won’t get much out of it. Think of all the things you’ve done half-heartedly. What if you had put your whole heart into it? Would you have enjoyed it better? Could it be something meaningful to you now? It’s hard to be half-hearted when you’re on the road anyhow. And not only that, it’s kind of dangerous too. You’re either in or you’re out. What if we participated in the things in our life with that sort of attitude?
5. Loving something is the easy part. Committing to it is what is difficult.
I can’t say that I love (city) biking yet. I mean even biking for fitness is not my go-to. I’m a runner – running will always be my first love. And walking in the city still feels more my speed. But you know what? I could see myself loving biking too if I do it enough. But committing to doing it regularly is what will make all the difference. It’s sort of like being in a relationship in that way. You can fall in love and it can be the grandest love you’ve ever experienced. But if you don’t commit to the other person, chances are, that relationship has an expiry date.
6. Even the best fall down sometimes.
For the record, the above line is from the Howie Day song, Collide. It’s really interesting that when you become a city biker, you all of a sudden become part of this weird community of people who tell you stories about themselves in relation to biking. You discover quickly even the best bikers, the most bad-ass of all, the veteran bikers, etc. have all been in some near-death accidents. Did that stop them? No. You fail, you fall, you get hurt, and you decide if that will mean you get on your bike again. Why do we expect life to go smoothly? We will fall, we will fail, we will get hurt. It’s okay because we can get up again. (As long as we’re not dead.)
7. A little kindness goes a long way.
At this point, I would like to give a personal shout out to every driver on the road who probably saw my facial expression of, “Please don’t kill me,” and by their motions, made it known they were aware of me. I was eternally grateful for this in my earliest days. And because of that, I try to do the same sometimes when I bike – letting pedestrians or drivers pass through ahead of me. Or while I’m making a turn, seeing how I can make life easier for them. Or maybe just waiting patiently. Taking that off the road, how much better is life when you and I can put others ahead of ourselves? If only a little bit every day.
8. Don’t be obsessed with the outcome.
Let’s say you try biking and you really give it your all, and it’s just not for you. Guess what? That’s okay. Or maybe it’s okay that even after many months and years of biking, you’re still not as hardcore as you’d like to be. Maybe after trying your hardest, the only time you ever really want to bike is on a warm summer day and with all the time in the world. What matters is that you tried. We become attached to the person and the things we conceive in our heads must happen – that we must have a certain kind of life, love a certain kind of person, and be a certain kind of person. But when you try something, the important thing above all, is a discovery of what you really want and don’t want. Let the outcome be.
9. Fear is an enemy you can turn into a friend.
Fear, believe it or not, is something you can turn into your friend. In fact, a little fear is healthy. It’s good for the soul, for self-preservation, and for one’s own humility. The key of course is to not let fear cripple you. It’s been said a million times and in different ways but overcoming your fears in spite of them, is where the amazing truly begins. I was afraid of biking, and sometimes when I get nervous about a big truck in front of me or wonder if I’m going to make the light, or when I’m trying a new route, I still get afraid. But that fear keeps me vigilant and focused. And when I overcome it, it frees me. When we think of how we interact with people, how we want to love them, and how we want to live with them and with ourselves – our fears can hold us back. Or they can be the very reason we say, “I’m afraid but I’m going to keep going anyway.”