The past 4 months has been hard. I’ve been asking myself what can I learn? I keep coming back to a weird parallel: What Can We Learn From Bikes in a Pandemic Race Clash?
Days full of pandemic isolation, distrust, economic disaster, political mudslinging from the extreme left and right. Deceit, fraud, name calling, fear induced hoarding, hate induced actions and words, polarized social media threads, unthoughtful words used to hurt. And while it’s been hard, it has been a time of pensive self-evaluation for many of us.
The question: “what really matters” has been deep and regular for all of us. Friends are fighting. Enemies are battling. Feelings hurt. Bodies hurt. It’s awful.
Rodney King called for an end to the violence of the Los Angeles riots on May 1, 1992. “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?”
So what do bikes have to do with it? Can Bikes teach us anything about being human and living together productively? Of course! Bikes can do anything.
Over the course of history bikes have long been a sense of joy, transportation, and utility.
They’ve served children through seniors and made their mark on our lives through experience. It’s the earliest mode of transportation available to give kids independence, besides walking. Friends’ houses became closer, and groups of kids traveled together. And man, bikes have changed.
As we’ve grown bikes got more complicated. There is tons of diversity, choice, and even conflict over the very same diversity and choices.
26 inches. 27.5 inch. 29 inches. Roadies. Skinny tires. Fixies. Electric. Training wheels. No training wheels. Balance bikes. Electric bikes. Closed to bike trails. Jumps. Sidewalks closed to bikes. Bikes lanes. Bikers crowded by cars. Speed limits for bikes. Helmet laws. MIPs. Charities purpose built around bikes. Standardization of wheel sizes. Single Speed. Fat Bikes. Racing. Not racing. BMX. Motorcycles on bike trails. Bikes on beach trails. No bikes. Compact gears. Bike weight. Blood doping. UCI rules and regulations. And of course, “who invented the mountain bike?”
Notable names are credited with mountain bike innovation and creation. You’ll recognize Gary Fisher and Tom Ritchey. Even they argue about who invented the mountain bike. Wikipedia says Joe Breeze is most commonly credited with the invention, and Fisher and Ritchey were part of the revolution that became the mountain bikes that we know. Get this, they started as partners and now I’ve read as sworn enemies.
One of my favorite rides is the Rwanda Ride (now the Good Dirt Ride) here in Southern California. It has been the largest mountain bike ride in the state for many years and started back in December of 2006, when founder Doug Grant went for a 50 mile ride on his 50th birthday.
Doug wanted to do some good, and so they picked a charity and invited his friends joined him. Now, 13 years in, the ride generates $100,000 a year for charities it supports. Among the charities are Qhubeka and Team Africa Rising; both charities that seek to give resources and hope to African people who gain utility and freedom from the bikes and finances they receive.
In 2007 Doug Grant reflected on his visit to Rwanda, a genocide recovering nation. It seems the focus allowed them to move past hurt and death into future and life. Grant told the OC Register “They don’t focus on the past. They’re all about hope, reconciliation and the future,” Grant said.
Focus on the future doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy
Which bike is best, and what version of the bike is best? I remember looking at a Mountainbike Action article on wheel sizes back in 2012 saying that the best size was 29” and it was coming. It also posited that the industry could not standardize, and that made supply chains harder for the industry as a whole.
Wait you’re telling me it is easier to stay the same, not challenge our thoughts, convictions, feelings…or even wheel choices? Of course it is. Change and interaction with changing people and even products is hard.
Different doesn’t mean war
Maybe you enjoy a unicycle as your only and best bike experience. I swear by wide open wilderness trail riding while remaining committed to my personal lack of interest in cross country mountain bike racing. Which one of us is wrong? Which one of us gets more personal fulfillment, freedom and joy from our bike? Wait, is a unicycle even a bike? See?
In life, like bike, we will find conflict. Passionate people will often agree and just as often disagree. That’s the beauty of life. Doing life together despite and because of our differences. Diversity colors our landscape and makes life rich.
As we travel through Over the Hump history, in a year that’s been a non-existing race season to date, emotions are high there will be more challenges to come.
A 2017 article shared a Loyola Marymount poll where “Researchers found that about 60 percent of a cross-section of Angelenos believe a civil disturbance could happen again sometime in the next five years.”
Here we are. People have reached their threshold from financial and emotional and healt challenges. Tempers rage. Peaceful and violent demonstrations are current affairs. And fittingly Rodney King’s words are some of the most recently googled, “Can we all just get along?”
The answer is no. But that doesn’t mean we have to be wicked or diametrically opposed.
Every bike, manufacturer, shop, tire, eyewear, helmet, and drive train supplier are different.
This community is together
I’ve seen a truth in action at Over the Hump: if we all get together, we’re better than if we are alone. We push for the common, the positive, the love. We dream of racing, even this summer. But it’s not the RACE. It’s the TOGETHER we crave.
We are different but the same.
LOVE. The only way through.
Weakness in society develops when there is only one person or passion group going one direction. Strength comes in doing life together.
Imagine a race with just PureRide Cycles Team or just The Path Bike Shop Team. That race gathering would be fun, and a good reunion, but where would the innovation, competition and banter come from. No winner. There wouldn’t be all the pomp and circumstance. Even all the jerseys would match, and bikes would be one or two brands. Not different, not colorful, certainly not better.
So is it the fight we want? Is that why we want the other guys there? Sometimes we’re seeking the fight, rather than seeking the cure.
Today, as we deal with pandemic responses, and racial bigotry targeted at people I am encouraged to consider the solution. LOVE.
Love covers a multitude of wrongs. Love is patient, love is kind, it is not self seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs.
My struggle is not your struggle. You don’t know all the challenges I face. Your struggle is most definitely too large and diverse for me to grasp. I can sympathize, but it will never be mine, exactly.
So what do we do with the differences?
Let’s create less hurt. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Seek to understand. Stand up for what is right with our voices, our dollars, and our friends.
Joke rudely. You hurt. Align with hate groups. You hurt. Break property. You hurt.
The answer is not push the man down. The answer is not rise above the man. (Whatever race, creed or religion said man or woman is). Slavery and oppression should be done. Racial inequality vanquished and adamantly rebuked as a swastika should be decried as vile and inhumane.
As we’ve seen in genocide, rioting, and violent disagreements: hate breeds hate. Anger fuels quick tempers (yes even on the bike).
I’ve sat with racers post-race. Officiating altercations of racers thrown purposely to the ground, for incidental clips….and sometimes purposeful unfair play on the course. It sucks. I “hate” the tension, but it’s necessary to address to resolve differences.
The conflict needs to be addressed, just like when my 10-year-old has a spat with her good friend and they say they are “not going to play anymore”. My wife or I will call the other parent, and reconnect the friends to “own their part”. Apology is required. An ask forgiveness. An offering of forgiveness. The hope of moving on is born.
We can learn a lot from kids. Their memory is still pliable and often shorter than ours as adults. It’s simple, to them. It’s no Utopia, but most often after the spat, my daughter will resume the challenged relationship with a new resolve to invest and love her friend. Tomorrow they will ride their bikes on the street again. Together.
What about me and you?
My heart hurts watching people hurt each other lately. I can’t stomach the distrust in politics and policy. My businesses struggle. I’m lonely and want to be together with people. I want to know you are OK. I want to help you be OK. I want to feel OK.
A friend of ours joined our ZOOM Happiest Hour this week. Comparing the OTH community to the current wave of societal discord he said, “We don’t have that here. There’s none of that.” He was speaking of the tension, the comparison, the differences notated and creating class structures and elitist groups.
We’re equal, and equally important. Kids. Juniors. Beginners. Women. Girls. 65+. Hand cycles. Tricycles. Even family and friends.
On my bike, many daily focus problems fade. I’m alive. I’m free on two wheels. I breathe. Move. I focus on where I’m at. Often my rides bring resolution or creative fixes to existing challenges.
Lance Armstrong wrote it’s not about the bike. And even with that one name I’ve polarized the conversation. It’s definitely not about the bike. But the bike and community around it are my sage and my teacher.
The unifier in our OTH community: bikes
They brought us together. We gather, we do life, and we embrace one another.
There will be altercations, disagreements and allegiances. Some will be purposeful from the few. Most will be unintended and need to be resolved through connection, love, honesty, forgiveness and education for how to do it better next time.
“No matter how hard life gets, there will always be good news” said John Krasinski signing off of his last Some Good News YouTube show in May.
The good news of this struggle
Different perspectives and life experiences shared allows us to love and sympathize with those who are different. It shows us others are hurt, too. Did you think you were the only one? To know a someone is to understand them.
Let’s get through this and every other life challenge together. Not as individuals. Not as haters, name callers, and violent conflictors.
We don’t know the final outcome. What is the exact and proper resolution to humanitarian and health related challenges?
We’re on the journey together, and in the end, we’ll be able to celebrate. Celebrate Life. Celebrate Human. Celebrate justice for the wronged.
Ultimately we’ll celebrate LOVE.
I’m for you, and with you.
Thanks for all the lessons, BIKE.
Let’s get on and pedal, together. -Matt