Editorial: On the intersection between biking and life

Trent Ernst, Editor


Dear John (and everyone else): By the time you read this, I’ll be gone.

Because it takes a couple days for the paper to get printed and delivered, I’m writing this on the weekend. By the time you read this, it will be Thursday.

And if it’s Thursday, this must be Powder King.

This will be day three of a week-long bike trip to raise funds and awareness for kids with cancer, and I’m sorry if I’m talking about it a lot lately, but this is what’s occupying a lot of my attention.

But, as always, I’m going to take what might seem to be just me talking about me, and turn it on its head, and make it something that applies to everyone.

That’s another secret to writing; if you can take something very small and personal, it is much easier to show how that ties into the universal experience of being human.

There has been no watershed moment this whole experience. I’ve been out on my bike a few times a week, putting in 30, 40, 50 … sometimes even 100 km a day.

It wasn’t like when I hit km 1000 suddenly everything clicked into place. Or when I hit 2000 km I suddenly was “in shape” and ready for the ride.

No, it’s been a matter of kilometer after slow kilometer. No shortcuts, no sudden jumps from fat to fit.

This is life, in a nutshell. Where you put your time, where you put your effort and energy, this is where you will start to see rewards and payoffs.

For me, it’s been becoming more healthy and losing weight, because I’m putting five or six hours a week into biking.

For others, it might be a skill: learning to play the piano or guitar. How did I become a drummer? By playing the drums. If you want to do something, do it. If you want to do something tomorrow better than you do it today, do it some more. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but it does make better.

But not if you don’t challenge yourself.

You see, that’s the other half of this equation. If you keep doing the exact same thing in the exact same way over and over, you don’t end up getting better, you wind up in a rut. You wind up finding an equilibrium.

You wind up balanced.

We talk about balance as a good thing, and in certain situations, it is.

But another word for balanced is boring.

An object at rest, says Newton, stays at rest. And an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and the same direction unless acted upon by an outside force.

In order to get better, to improve or simply to change, you need to get out of balance.

There’s an old quote that was definitely not originally said by Einstein or by Ben Franklin. It goes “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Being unbalanced is a good thing. Breaking the routine is a good thing.

In fact, let’s return to the bicycle, my favourite form of transportation.

If you were to try and sit on a bike that wasn’t moving, you’d fall over.

It is that unbalancedness that drives the bike forward and the very act of instability that keeps the cyclist upright. The two act together to provide both forward momentum and a new type of stability. As the bike moves forward, the motion allows the rider to make microscopic adjustments to keep the centre of mass balanced over the wheel.

It’s highly complex and not very well understood and most explanations for how it works fail to capture all the dynamics and competing and sometimes contrary forces at work.

Again, much like life itself.