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Exploring a New Tool

Last week, I picked up a new tool for me: a full suspension mountain bike. Since moving to South Carolina, trail riding has been my salvation through the worst of COVID lockdowns and all the challenges of changing home location, work and career, and leading a family through that.

When I first got into trail riding, it was a safety thing. I quickly realized that the paved trails I enjoyed in Sweden were too short and too few for sufficient exercise. Realizing the traffic fatalities in our state exceeded the worst of the EU (Bulgaria) and feeling questionably safe on the roads in the protective shell of my Volvo, I had no interest in venturing into road riding.

Unfortunately the bike I had from Sweden wouldn’t handle the sand and roots of the local trails. I needed a new bike, but I didn’t want to go full out into a large investment either. Maybe trail riding wouldn’t be for me. Maybe I would quickly lose interest. So I bought a bike that would handle trails and was decently equipped, but also reasonably priced.

I ended up loving it.

The ride became my thinking space. My own space. When I felt the need for speed, I had it. When I wanted to push myself, I could. When I needed to be fully present, to hear the birds, smell the pine forest, feel the breeze (or stagnant humidity), I could. When I had a problem I couldn’t solve, I could hit the trails with the emotion (anger, frustration, embarrassment, etc) and through the ride, organize my thoughts and come out with clarity and an action plan.

After riding several times a week for almost two years, I began to find limitations with my bike though.

First of all, all the pounding up and down on rocks and roots led to some other issues, in wrists and hands and sit-bones.

Second, as I expanded to more advanced trails with more rocks and more rapidly changing terrain, I walked far more than I would have liked.

And lastly, I share with a tinge of embarrassment for my still-too-competitive nature, I was frustrated by seemingly less-fit riders surging past me on the trails.

I seriously hadn’t thought much about doing anything about all of these, until I had my bike in for service and just happened to chat with one of the salespeople in the store. We were talking about the wear and miles on my bike, and how it was great that I was out so much.

I said a bit ruefully that I just couldn’t figure out though how I was passed that morning by an older man on a particular section of trail. After some discussion, I was introduced to differences between a full suspension bike and the hard-tail that I had.

I was invited to ride one in stock a bit. I jumped off the curb, with much less impact to my body. I saw the difference in control that I had, where my weight was centered on the drive tire, no matter how I stood or sat.

I was sold.

But bikes were still limited as part of the supply chain, so even though I was sold, I still had to wait six months for it.

Last week on coming home, I picked it up and rode for the first time.

I had really high expectations.

I was expecting to set a time record on the loop.

I was also very unrealistic.

I hadn’t biked in almost three months. The heat index and humidity were sky-high, which I know saps my energy and why I sought high degrees latitude for the past months. I also had an unfamiliar tool that behaved differently than I was used to.

I reflected about how common it is that we have that expectation on a new tool.

We invest in something that gives us increased performance, better results, and a smoother ride.

But we expect it to work immediately. We want the results now.

We don’t want a learning curve.

I challenge you to ask yourself:

What tool have I invested in and been frustrated because it didn’t show results the first time? When I have been all excited and ready to see what my new tool would do, and it didn’t?

How many times have I gotten frustrated, gave up before I beat the learning curve, and went back to old ways?

I see it in the training and coaching I work with.

A new idea, a new tool, a new method, or a new way of thinking sounds wonderful. It seems like it will solve all (or at least a major part) of my problem. But it doesn’t on the first try. Maybe we are persistent enough to give it a second or a third try.

New tools, new methods, new ways of thinking can take days, weeks, or even months of effort and learning to show results.

If you need some help, some coaching, or accountability to get there, reach out and see if I can help.

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep working on my new tool.

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