The Predicament

As many of you know, one of my hobbies is road cycling. To me, this is a form of meditation and self-alignment. Two things are particularly challenging to master in cycling, and both require a part of body strength and part of mental strength: Going uphill and going against the wind. With this post, I intend to make a parallel with this and challenging times in life, and as well some motivational strategies on how to overcome it, that applies both to cycling and life.

Going uphill and against the wind are pretty similar to one another: You move forward slowly, you believe you can’t carry on, you spend a lot of your energy, it’s pretty frustrating overall. But they’re different in one aspect: One is predictable, and you can prepare for it, and the other one is unpredictable, and you don’t know where it will end.

Going Uphill and Downhill

I would compare going uphill with challenging tasks that we face in life: Having difficult conversations, making planned economic sacrifices, and putting up with unpleasant people at a specific point in time. The knowledge of a big hill is something that typically frustrates the beginner cyclist, but the more hills you climb, the more you get to enjoy them until you finally look forward to climbing that hill with the confidence that it will not beat you.

Now, there are also times when our bikes are very heavy. Like, for example, when we’re bike-touring. At these times the climbs especially might take us to the limits of our strength. I like to compare this with extremely difficult moments in life when merely making progress is nearly impossible.

Going Downhill, on the other hand, it’s exciting and vertiginous. It is, however, extremely dangerous if we don’t know how to surf through it. Wind can knock us down, rough roads can burst our tires, cars can suddenly break or turn unexpectedly, and close curves throw us out of the way (or a cliff like one time happened to me). I like to compare this of times in life when things are happening exactly the way we want but could quickly go out of control if we don’t do the right thing.

Going Against the Wind

If you ask many other cyclists and me. Going against the wind is something we particularly hate. There are many reasons to it: you’re going slow when you’re supposed to be going fast, you are at risk of getting blown out of your bike at any moment, you don’t know when it’s going to end, and the worst! You know that if you turn around and go back, you can stop your misery very quickly, but with the frustration of not having achieved your goal. I compare the wind with those situations in life that you don’t know when they’re going to end. You set yourself to a goal that’s difficult to achieve, you’re striving to get it, you know what’s the way, but life wants to make things very difficult for you.
In both situations, it’s easy to get frustrated and very difficult to remain focused. Always at the very tempting face of the easy way out.

Riding uphill, depending on the character, some will walk, some will ride, it’s all allowed!

Tips and Tricks to Succeed

As I mentioned before, there are two components to succeed in a quest that involves either wind or hills — both in life and cycling.

  • Be Patient: Difficult tasks and situations always eventually end, so be patient and push through.
  • Don’t give up: Have your goal in mind, it might seem that you’re not moving fast enough or your energies depleted, but if you know in your head that you’re capable (and in most cases you are), then don’t give up!
  • Take advantage of the terrain: Climbing with heavy loads may be demotivating. But to some, a road goes straight, to others the road can have infinite switchbacks of lower steepness grade.
  • Be focused and prepared to react: Here, experience takes most of the credit. Not being distracted is key to survival in downhill. Keep scanning between the immediate road and the future road. Pay attention to the traffic signs and learn how to react in the right measure. Over reacting might kill you. Under reacting might burst your tires, or throw you off the road and kill you.
  • Know your condition: Sometimes you might be out of shape or still require some training to climb that hill, or to endure that wind. Persistence and repetition in life are everything. Train, train, train.
  • Know your challenge: As important as knowing yourself and your areas of improvement, is to understand what you’re doing. This has two components: Experience (train, train, train), and planning: Know when to attack, know how to use your gears, know when to save your energy, pay attention to the conditions and adapt quickly!
  • Be Humble but Confident: There is nothing worse than to face a challenge believing you know it all, wasting a lot of energies in the wrong way and finding it out in the middle. Be confident but observant and willing to learn. No matter how experienced we are, we always learn!

With this, I close my blog post. I hope this is useful to my friends, cyclists or not, we always face hills or wind in our lives, either uphill, or downhill, either tailwind, headwind or side wind! It’s worth pursuing your goals!