Fatherhood has been the greatest honor of my life. Of all the things I have done, places visited, the entire spectrum of human joy I have experienced, none of it compares with being a dad. For my son’s first birthday I bought him a Strider, a little miniature balance bike without pedals. I knew he wouldn’t be able to ride it for a long while but for some reason I thought it was important that I give it to him as his first birthday present. To have. To dream on.
I considered the danger of pushing him to hard or fast into bikes so I promised myself that I would let him come to it on his own terms. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the reason I got him that little bike was to teach him the things about life that mountain biking has taught me.
You’ve got to keep going if you want to get anywhere. No one else can pedal for you.
Get up. Get back on.
Everybody crashes. Some people never get up. Crashing is a double-edged sword. It teaches fear and pain and respect, but it also teaches us that we survive. We persist. We are resilient and we shake it off and get up and keep going. Crashing teaches us that failure is the origin of all progression. We must make mistakes and try again in order to get any better. At anything.
Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go.
See the path between the obstacles, not the obstacles themselves. The bike will go where you look. Big scary rocks and deep ravines will drag you toward them. You will panic and be powerless to avoid them. This is true in the rest of life as well. Focus on the goal, the line, the prize and keep the pitfalls and distractions in the periphery.
Learn to fix what you break. Figure out who can fix what you can’t and figure out what beer they like. When you understand how a thing works it is easier to bend its use to your will.
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something” -The Princess Bride.
There is a lot of pain in cycling: The pain of injury. The pain cave- that psychic place we go to when pushing hard, spent, grinding away in an anerobic nightmare, cramping, hungry, licking the salt from sweaty arms in an attempt to unlock piano-wire hamstrings. The pain of losing. Ultimately, in experiencing pain we learn to accept it as an incidental consequence of riding and in living. In enduring pain we begin to understand that we will survive pain. When we have an idea how long the tunnel is we know when to expect the light at the end of it. We become tough, but not immune. Mountain biking teaches us that pain is a consideration, not a limitation.
Learn to love something and it will teach you to love everything. One cannot be passionate about something that is easy. There is difficulty, adversity in passion. A fight. A potential for failure. Something to lose. Something to hang on to.
For me at least, bikes are just a thing upon which to hang my passion. It doesn’t really matter what the object of the passion is, just as long as it IS. Passion is the core of life. It is important to be passionate about something. Important to find something to love and make your own. Whatever that ends up being doesn’t really matter.