bicycle gearIf you haven’t so much as looked at your bike for nearly a year and have done approximately 21.75 minutes of aerobic exercise during that time frame, it’s a great idea to start by riding 6-1/2 miles.

Said no one. Ever.

Not that it stopped me.

It’s not like I’d been a total slug for so long. I’ve been getting all bendy in an intense yoga class two or three times a week this summer. I kayak almost as frequently. I was even swimming laps, until it felt redundant to swim indoors when the weather was perfect for paddling outdoors.

How hard could six or seven miles be? After all, I regularly did 10 to 15-mile rides last summer here at the blessedly flat seashore.

I set out to ride five miles; ended up doing 6.5

It wasn’t that hard. I only walked funny for the next 24 hours or so.

Groaning over aches and pains in muscles I’d forgotten about was worth it, though, for what that first ride taught me about easing back in order to move forward.

The Struggle to Get in Gear

I started with both gear shifts set to medium. I have no clue which is high gear or low gear – is the higher number high gear or what? Anyway, I started in the middle: 3.

Which was great. Until I got to the hill – which is relative on a barrier island, where a tabletop is like a topographical map of the terrain.

I flicked the little gear shift on the left handlebar – I think it’s the one for the back wheel – to two. Perfect.

What goes up must come down, even when biking on a tabletop, and I soon found myself coasting – much too fast – while descending this miniature mountain.

I didn’t go out there to coast, at what felt like death-defying speeds, so I shifted back to three.

Make that attempted to shift back to three.

The chain thumped.

Ca-lump. Ca-lump. Ca-lump.

I pedaled faster.

Ca-lump. Ca-lump. Ca-lump.

I pedaled as fast as I could.

Ca-lump. Ca-lump. Ca-lump. CA-LUMP.

I flicked the gear shift back to two.

Now I was flying down the baby hill, and the lack of tension on the chain made it feel like I was pedaling a clown car. Or bike. I was too freaked out to not mix metaphors.

I tried again to get into third gear.

Ca-lump. Ca-lump. Ca-lump.

I pedaled harder until I felt myself ease off, relaxing just a bit. The chain slipped into gear, as if by magic.

The Shift

“Where else does THIS show up in your life,” asked the voice of the Coach in My Head. I ignored it and tried shifting again, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

Sure enough, every time I tried to muscle back into third gear, I failed.

Every time I eased off a little and then started to pedal easily again, voila, there I was, exactly where I wanted to be. Every. Single. Time.

Now that I’ve become a (marginally) stronger cyclist, not to mention a near-expert gear-shifter, I’m able to take time on my rides to the ponder other instances where else this new-found appreciation for easing back might come in handy. My business, perhaps. Personal relationships, definitely.

Would you like to join me?

In pondering about where easing off might help you to move forward. Not biking. Although both would be fun, too.

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