What The Fat Man Told Me About Riding Bicycles
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The only time I had ever ridden a bike was as a child running around the streets of Lagos. I did not have a bike of my own, so I spent most of my time hoping that people who had bikes would
crash or get tired so that I could get a chance to ride. Thus my riding experience to say the least was very limited. I barely made it around our mile and a half long estate route, before the owner was clamoring to get back on his bike. So when a co-worker of mine asked me about participating in the MS-150 bike ride from Houston to Austin, Texas…I was shocked that I found my body saying heck yes! It must have been a response to make up for my child hood deprived bicycle riding experience. The purpose of the ride was to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis a debilitating and paralytic disease that affected millions. To be honest I did not know what multiple sclerosis was at that time…the main reason I was interested in riding was borne more out of curiosity more than anything else. I had heard many horror stories about the MS-150 ride…how your muscles would hurt and how you would not be able to seat for days because your butt had been savagely raped by the tiny bike seat.
But this bike ride was not like my childhood riding experience. It was not the closed estate route that I was so used to. It was different, it was a 180 miles long ride that was scattered along the sunny and windy planes of Texas. The hills on the ride were rumored to be so steep that even Jack and Jill could not go up the hills without passing out from exhaustion. Luckily the organizers of the event, understood that riders passing out from exhaustion was not a good thing. So they created an elaborate and progressively tough training session to allow riders transition seamlessly into the rigors of riding the hilly MS-150 route. Each training ride occurred during the weekend and progressively advanced in difficulty as the weeks progressed. The first rides were flats and were littered with multiple stops and rest points. The early rides were a breeze, aside from the danger of falling off my bike and running into a stray cow…I was able to finish in good time.
After several weeks of flat riding, it was time to progress to the hills. Now if you have ever ridden a bike, you would know that hills are #$%$%@$#…especially the large ones. It is like you are moving but you are not moving and your legs feel like burning up as you pedal and pedal in frustration. Fortunately, the completion of every uphill is normally proceeded by a downhill ride. The downhill ride is the orgasmic point of riding…you pedal effortlessly and are powered on by the earth’s gravitational pull. The feeling of the wind flowing by your hair and ears is an exhilarating feeling that is accentuated by the fact that you don’t have to do anything. On the downhill ride you could easily reach speeds of 40 to 45 miles per hour which when converted to S.I. units is “freakishly fast” km/h. So on my hill rides, I would struggle through the upward slopes and once I got to the downward slopes I would stop pedaling and relax, repeating this ritual time and time again. Until I met a certain man…a certain fat man…
He was an older gentleman, big and burly. He looked like the sort of person who spent more time drinking beer than he did breathing and his protruding belly did little to alleviate my harsh thoughts. I met him on one of the more advance hill rides during the earlier stages of the ride. We struck up a conversation about life, Mozart, birds, Tupac, angular momentum (Ok OK I really can’t remember what we talked about so I just inserted something). I really enjoyed the conversation, but really wanted to get on with the ride. I felt that my big manly beer drinking friend will slow me down so at the next available break in our conversation, I lunged forward and pedaled away leaving him far far behind.
As usual I found myself struggling with the hills as everyone from men to women t0 children and snails were passing me up. I kept pedaling and pedaling wondering all the time how my long lost friend was coping with the hills. But after like 30 or so minutes, I looked up and saw none other than my beer drinking friend in front of me. Ironically, he seemed to be slowing down to allow me catch up! How a burly old man in his 40s could pass up a young 20 year old in his prime was beyond me. I tried to act calm, but the look of shock and confusion was clearly written all over my place. I wanted to scream “how the heck did you pull that off!” But I did not need to because soon enough we were talking again and that was when he told me this…
“When you face an uphill ride…pedal hard till you get to the top, but when you get to the top and are going downhill, keep pedaling so that you can build up enough momentum and speed to carry you through the next uphill. Never relax on the downhill, keep pedaling at all times and soon the hills will become easier to tackle.”
I almost fell off my bike when he told me that. For the longest time I had been doing the wrong thing. I was struggling through the uphills and when I made it to the top of the hill and begun the downhill decent I stopped pedaling. So by the time I hit another uphill, I had to start all over again. After his advice my cycle time improved drastically and I no longer dreaded hills as much as before.
In life we are all going to face times of struggles and difficulties, at work, financially and relationship wise (the uphills). Eventually we might overcome our struggles and make it to the top, either through a promotion, a raise or marriage. But as soon as some of us get to the top, we stop pedaling and stop doing what made us successful in the first place, at work we stop striving for excellence, financially we stop saving smartly as we did previously and in marriages we stop putting in the effort we put during the dating period. Instead, we just lay back and enjoy the fun relaxing ride (the downhills). This was exactly what I did on my training ride until I was given critical advice by a fat man…and that is that those who stop pedaling will eventually lose momentum as others that kept pedaling even in the downhill times pass them up! But I do know that if we keep pedaling, through the uphills and downhills, keep pedaling through difficult and easy times, keep pedaling through separation and love, keep pedaling through layoffs and promotions, if we keep on pedaling then we have a better chance at overcoming whatever hills may lie ahead.
Wishing You Extreme Success,