Top 5 life lessons from mountain biking – Part 4a

We’ve pedaled our way through life lessons on how faster can be safer, on finding your cadence and on how where you stare is where you will steer. Now it is time for life lesson number 4:

Don’t turn to turn.

On a bicycle, turning is more about leaning and letting your body guide where your bike will move. You have to trust that your body (and subconscious mind) knows how to get you where you want to go.

If you learned to ride a bike as a kid, you’ve probably forgotten how you initially got the bike to balance or turn. If you could un-record years of muscle memory, you’d find that staying upright on a bike is totally non-intuitive. You have to make small movements, turning your front wheel in the direction you’re falling.

You can’t think your way into understanding that process. Your conscious mind will always reject as irrational the very approach to turning that will keep you from leaving bits of skin, clothing and self esteem on the asphalt.

Turning on a mountain bike is an exaggerated version of this form of leaning and balance. You make numerous micro adjustments in ways you don’t consciously realize. Your body learns to turn even if your head is still back there staring at that big rock in the trail and thinking it would be a better idea to maybe walk for a while.

A good mountain biker learns to trust his or her body and to develop a very fluid center of gravity. You have to lean forward going up a hill. On a steep descent, you have to scoot so far back on or even past your seat that I’ve heard of riders getting tire burns on their rear end.

A sharp turn could have you leaning almost horizontally and you’ll be all over the place shifting left and right to balance on narrow “skinnies” or slick root-infested trails. Mountain bikers even refer to the idea of “dancing with the bike” where the rider and the machine are like Fred and Ginger swirling across the floor. Good riders learn that balance and turning become easier and smoother when you trust and move with your partner (your bike) in ways that don’t always make sense at first, but become a part of you over time.

So how does this apply to travel or to life? I’ll share my thoughts next time, but you tell me. Seriously, what are some ways you see issues of balance and turning applied to your own life or trips?

To be continued…

If you haven’t already done so, check out Lesson 1, Lesson 2Lesson 3Lesson 4b and Lesson 5

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