Last Sunday morning a participant approached me after a class I subbed at the Life Time Fitness HQ club. I call it the HQ club because it shares the parking lot of Lifetime’s corporate offices in Chanhassen, MN.
I’ve forgotten her name, but she asked if I had a minute to advise her about purchasing a new bike. She explained how she had been riding indoors for about a year and was excited to test her new fitness outdoors this Spring.
“It sure looks and sounds like you have a lot of experience riding outdoors John, what brand of bike would you recommend for someone just getting started?”
THIS A TRAP!
Do I have a lot of knowledge about outdoor bicycles? Of course I do. If I chose to, I could have launched into an hour long dissertation about the virtues of carbon frames vs. aluminum frames, the specific differences between gruppos from Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo, wheel choices and on and on – all with the intent of impressing her. But I didn’t.
I could print my standard answer to this question on a business card; “I always recommend new riders start with the bicycle they will ride regularly.” This straightforward response often illicites a confused look from whomever I’m talking with. So I explain further, telling her…
“I love riding outdoors and I enjoy encouraging others as well. But riding outdoors, especially on the road, isn’t for everyone. Because you don’t know if cycling outdoors is really for you, my suggestion is to find a simple bike, start riding it and see if you enjoy it. You may have one hanging in your garage or one of your neighbors may have one you can borrow. Barring that, you could go to a local bike shop and find a reasonably priced cross-bike. Forget the special shoes and clips, the standard pedals are all that you need. Then I suggest finding a friend to ride with – it’s safer and more fun riding with someone else. Then set yourself a goal for this summer of say 500 miles. If you reach it, promise yourself a new bicycle. Between now and then you’ll have learned a lot that will help you make a good decision… but if you don’t it’s no big deal. You’ve just learned that outdoor riding just isn’t for you, or you may find you only enjoy riding on the LRT trails.”
When I finished she looked like she wanted to hug me. Thank you, she said with a big smile. You have no idea how freeing it was to hear that. I have been getting dizzy with all the choices of bikes and really stressed about learning how to get in and out of my shoe clips. I’m having enough trouble here at the club. I have a friend who fell in a busy intersection when she couldn’t un-clip. She called her husband to pick her up and I don’t think she’s ridden her bike since.
I’m not sure if you know him, but Tim Ferriss is a master communicator. He’s the author of a number of best seller books including; The Four Hour Work Week and The Four Hour Chef. Both books are about learning the process of learning and then leveraging that skill to quickly become proficient in just about anything. A recent interview discussing the The Four Hour Chef included this:
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. And it’s so easy. I mean, when you get to the highest levels, when you’re talking to the best chefs in the world, they don’t try to complicate it for you. That’s what I realized. When you’re talking to a lot of people who are kind of good, or really want to prevent you from being part of their world because they want to be some like, weird high priest of the blogosphere or whatever? They don’t, they complicate things. But when you talk to, like, the Michael Jordans of cooking, like Grant Achatz, at Alinea in Chicago, where I spent two or three days, which is the #1 ranked restaurant in the US, while I was writing the book, or Marco Canora of Hearth in New York City, or you name it. I mean, Joshua Skenes of Saison in San Francisco. They are happy to give you simple techniques that will make you one of the best home cooks in the city. I mean, it does not have to be complicated at all.
Many of our students look to us as authorities or experts. We all have a unique opportunity to help others make positive lifestyle changes if we remember to avoid the trap of trying to impress and instead, concentrate on communicating effectively using simple techniques. Our Best Practices category of articles is an example of how we try to apply this here at ICI/PRO.
Can you think of a few areas where this could possibly apply to you?