Leadership is Just Like Riding a (Mountain) Bike

by: Natalie Giroux

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

At the first signs of fall, I dusted off my mountain bike and headed for the trails. During my first serious ride on “White School Trail” in Vermont, I was nervous.  After all, it had been almost a year! As I paused at the top, it dawned on me that riding a mountain bike is a lot like leading a team. You could say that the leader is the rider and the team is the bike. So, with this in mind, here are my mountain biking lessons that also relate to leadership in an organization!

  1. Look between the trees not at them“.  In other words, look ahead as far as you can, read the trail and anticipate what is coming. You need to look ahead constantly and make instantaneous decisions. No point in stopping and cursing at the tree or feeling sorry that it was in your way.  Just move on.
  2. Trust your bike and always keep a firm grip on both handles!” As you ride over a rock pile you need to trust that your bike will float over it while keeping the direction by holding firmly on the handles.
  3. When riding at high speed, don’t over-think.  Follow your instinct”.  At high speed, you cannot think about each little obstacle, you need to look ahead as far as you can, read the trail and anticipate what is coming at you; plan further down the path.
  4. Never give up” as you go up steep, never-ending hills with multiple nasty hairpin switchbacks you will feel the burn. But if you persevere you will get to the top and it will feel amazingly rewarding. Besides, most of the time, you don’t have a choice anyway, since turning back is not an option!
  5. Life is full of surprises when you look for them”.  Nothing is better than finding you have an extra gear when you are not yet at the top of a steep hill!
  6. Never lose focus or let anything distract you”. Paying attention to distractions can sometimes put you in a dangerous predicament.
  7. Learn when it’s time to let go during a difficult situation“. In case you missed lesson 6 and find yourself flying in the air in slow motion, best to let go of the bike, relax and try not to control the situation.  The landing will be softer and injuries less likely.
  8. Learn from your mistakes then move on”. Some situations can be embarrassing (see lesson 7), but just pick up your belongings, dust off the pine needles, grin at the strangers containing their laughter and take some time to lower the adrenaline while figuring out why you got in trouble so it won’t happen again!
  9. When it is wet, ride quiet”. When the conditions temporarily change for the worse, it is fine to slow down a bit and adapt while still maintaining your course.
  10. Never make a sharp move with the front wheel” since the rest of your bike can’t follow. Best to lean with the entire bike and look in the direction you want to go.
  11. Never brake only with the front wheel”. The back of the bike will roll over and you’re headed for a painful fall.
  12. It is always good to ride with people that are more skilled”. Watching them ride over terrain you find challenging is the best way to learn and improve.
  13. The path taken by the rider ahead is not necessarily the best path for you”. Even if you are riding with someone more experienced, it is a good idea to try your own path which may be more efficient for you and what you are trying to do. You might even discover something new!
  14. Know when it is time to take a break or call it a day”. Even though there may still be a lot of terrain to cover, when your muscles and brain get tired you start making rookie mistakes. It is time to pack it up.
  15. Celebrate!” Take the time to enjoy your daily accomplishments. That shower will feel amazing! Then head to the Tiki bar to nurse your cuts and bruises, chat about the trails you discovered and enjoy the sunset.
  16. Plan and prepare” for your next outing. Tune up your bike, review all the components that may need repair or upgrades, then plan your next route. You are now ready to relive the excitement again!
  17. Believe in yourself

Happy riding!

P.S.  If my blog inspires you to learn mountain biking, and you are in my age group, I highly recommend a double-suspension bike with tubeless tires!

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