The thing they don't tell you when you buy a bike...
and I'm not talking about the extended service plan
My friend Tod introduced me to the idea of the “beginner’s mindset” years ago in a discussion of corporate culture and how to help leaders adapt faster to an increasingly fast-changing environment. It’s the idea of approaching something as a beginner would, without preconceptions.
I hadn’t thought about it in a while until one of my oldest friends, Bubba, bought a bike and asked me for tips. (Bubba isn’t his real name, just as Bubba isn’t my real name. But for the last 40+ years that’s what we’ve called each other. He’s probably the only Bubba from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.)
So I started thinking about what I’ve learned over the past 90,000 miles of riding and the things that I wished I’d known as a beginner. At first it was the basic mechanics of riding.
You should pedal faster than feels normal; eventually it will feel normal. I see people riding casually, struggling to turn over the pedals, probably thinking that if it’s harder to pedal, they’re getting a better workout. Not necessarily. If your goal is cardio health, aim for a cadence of 85 to 95 rpm and gradually shift to increase the resistance. The higher your cadence, the more the workload shifts to your cardio system. Your knees will thank you.
And if your goal is general fitness, you don’t have to hit your maximum heart rate on every ride. Just aim for 45 minutes to an hour at a heart rate in what’s called Zone 2, around 65% to 75% of your maximum heart rate. Just work at a level where you could take a phone call if you needed to but the other person could tell you’re exercising (and not from wind noise.)
But what I wished I’d known was really more important than that.
In fact, you probably already know this but may not have considered in the context of riding. How someone else does something — whether it’s business, sports, cooking, or writing — shouldn’t affect your pride in what you do.
There’s always going to be someone faster. There’s always someone who will ride farther. Someone will climb more than you did. And you don’t even have to guess any more. With apps like Strava you can break rides down to tiny fragments and compare how fast other riders were on individual segments — even just on that day alone.
Unless you are competing and didn’t perform at your best, someone else’s ride should have no bearing on how you feel about your own ride.
I should know. I routinely get my butt kicked on group rides by guys both older and younger than I am. Do I look at how fast they rode on Tuesday Night Worlds? You bet I do! If I can see their power and heart rate numbers I look at those, too. But it’s completely disconnected from how I feel about my own ride. My ride is my ride, and if I enjoyed it, there’s nothing anybody else can do, or did do, that will change that.
We’ve had pros stay with us for our local crit, Birmingham Hammerfest, and nothing illustrates what a different species they are than going on an “easy ride” with them. Easy for them; on the limit for me. And when they share power numbers from races, I see that they sustain for up to two hours what I could maybe manage for five minutes. But should I feel less pride in my ride because I didn’t average 29 miles per hour? Of course not.
The principle is the same whether you’re looking at a pro or the pharma sales rep who’s always just ahead of you (I’m watching you Jerry). When you have a good ride that you enjoyed, you’re the only person who can diminish how you feel about it. And there’s no reason to. There you go, Bubba. Enjoy your ride.