Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tip of the Day: Exposing Your Weaknesses with a Mountain Bike

So I wrote this blog entry a while back about using an iPhone4 to expose you photography weaknesses because of the limited dynamic range, shooting speeds, write speeds, controls, etc.

Today I'm going to tell you how you can further expose your weaknesses but not with anything camera-related. But instead, with a mountain bike.

Yesterday, my friend Billy and I were in the local mountains (above Jet Propulsion Laboratory) riding a well-known trail. The climb uphill was uneventful as usual. Coming down, Billy was right behind me the whole time as I could hear his brakes squealing like a stuck pig. Ending our descent, I entered the landing area (called the Saddleback) where we usually regroup. I slowed to a stop and turned the bike around fully expecting to see Billy come shooting out of the trail into the landing area.

But he did not.

A minute passed and I started to get worried. It made no sense that he hadn't shown up yet since he was hot on my tail earlier. Wondering if maybe he took a spill, I rode up the trail to find him.

I didn't have to go far before I found Billy hobbling onto his bike.

"What happened?"

"I didn't see the log"

The aforementioned log is a fallen tree that runs exactly perpendicular to the trail and looks like the one below but bigger/taller and you can't go around it (we were on a singletrack).

It isn't something you'd easily miss.

Turns out Billy was flying down the trail trying to catch me and by the time he saw the log, he was carrying too much speed. He pulled his front wheel over the log successfully. But as the front wheel was landed, the rear wheel was going over the log and kicked up the back-end of the bike. This nosed the front end of the bike down. In a panic, he pulled hard on the brakes, locked up the front wheel, and promptly ejected himself "over the bars" of the bike and landed on his head and shoulder.

After gathering himself (and his battered ego) he rode slowly down the rest of the trail and made it home. Later via text, he tells me "I don't think mountain biking is for me. I'm going to take some time off"

He's okay. Nothing broken. Just bruised and rattled.

So what's the point of the story?

Well, the thing with mountain biking at speed is that it's pretty rough and shit happens. Frequently. You get banged up a lot more than you would if you were just tooling around on the road. Why? Because the terrain is uneven, trails tend to be narrow, and traction is unpredictable. More importantly however mountain biking is more dangerous because it exposes all of your weaknesses. Whether it's bike control or self control, mountain biking will make you pay dearly for your flaws. Even little ones.

For example, Billy got too excited chasing me down the mountain and wasn't paying enough attention to the terrain. That's okay, but then he panicked and made the fatal error of pulling too hard on the front brakes. That's actually the reason he went flying over the bars of his bike.

So what are his weaknesses? Well, Billy's a little reckless. He gets a little out of control at times. On and off the road. That's his personality. He has 1 speed and it's called, "GO!". Billy also lacks the finesse and fine skills that are required to be a *smooth* cyclist. And while we are accustomed to riding on the road rather uneventfully, mountain biking has proven that we are not as good as we think we are. Sadly, all our road miles have given us a false sense of security by hiding our bike handling weaknesses.

Which is exactly why he should continue to riding his mountain bike. Because though it seems "safer" to ride on the road, it actually isn't. Most people assume that just because you don't come home bloody after every ride that it's safer to ride on the road. Totally untrue. Yes you're more likely to get bumps and bruises on the trail. But you're more likely to die on the road. Why? Traffic plus higher speeds. On a mountain bike you're flying if you're doing 20MPH. On the road I easily exceed 40MPH and I have gone 50+MPH. Combine that with cars and drivers like Lindsay Lohan and you have a recipe for disaster.

Especially when you have glaring weaknesses with bike control and worse, self control.

Don't believe me? Then riddle me this: How many "ghost bikes" have you seen chained to a tree on a trail?

As Katt Williams would say sarcastically, "Don't worry, I'll wait".

Oh and don't think that I'm immune to scuffs and scrapes on the mountain bike. This is my souvenir from the same day.

The point is that mountain biking forces you to acknowledge and reconcile your weaknesses. Weaknesses that might lie dormant for a long time but someday rear its ugly head and kill you in a perfect storm. And although you could live the rest of your life in ignorance, select activities such as mountain biking can teach you how to control your weaknesses so they don't kill you or ruin your life. In fact, you might start to see patterns of behavior that occur outside of cycling. Maybe you have a problem with maintaining good momentum (like in your work)? Maybe you go too hard and burn out and then get sidelined for weeks? Maybe you don't look far enough down the road? Or maybe you go down the wrong paths because you don't spend enough time planning?

And while these questions can be cycling related, they can also apply perfectly to your work or your personal life. Because the underlying flaws with your personality permeate everything that you do regardless the activity. So the question becomes, "Am I going to hide my flaws or am I going to face them and fix them?"

And suddenly the journey over the river and through the woods becomes one of "self-exploration" and not just mountain biking.

So do yourself a favor. Find that activity that pushes you and forces you to understand yourself more ways than one. While it doesn't have to be mountain biking, it's usually something that is often uncomfortable and challenging!

1 comment:

  1. Love it, Charles.
    Perfect Zen of Mountain Biking moment.

    Next up: Zen and the art of the photographic 'zone'.