I accused my wife of being un-coachable. This is not, as you might imagine, a great conversational ploy, but we have been married a long time and our individual foibles are not secrets either to ourselves or to each other. She said, “I don’t think that’s 100% true.” And I said, “OK, it’s not 100% true.” And then she smiled, and we went back to drinking coffee.
Here’s what IS 100% true. My wife is perfect, even in her imperfections. She is a super successful, self-directed person, who really doesn’t need my coaching, but sometimes asks for it anyway, either because I happen to know more about a thing or simply because even highly effective people occasionally find it relaxing to be told what to do in their spare time. My comment to her was in the context of a training plan I made that we are both, at least nominally, participating in.
To some people, like my wife, self-efficacy, or the ability to make all your own choices, is supremely important. As she will say, “I don’t like to do what I’m told, even if it’s what I need to do,” and that’s what makes her uncoachability endearing to me. She’s going to do it her way, and usually that does include embracing the goal and the general method, though seldom any of the specifics. She gets paid to make big decisions and she’s good at it. Trying telling her she’s not.
There are two reasons I’m pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of my wedded bliss. First, self-efficacy is a huge component of cycling. One of the unique appeals of riding a bike is the freedom we associate with it, the ability to go wherever we want (assuming we’re not on the back of a tandem). The second reason is that, within the context of a relationship, whether you’re married to someone or just riding bikes with them, there are compromises to be made.
Patrick asked me yesterday on the Paceline what I had to give to other people, via cycling (and more broadly), and the answer for me is always patience. My marriage (21 years and counting) is a tribute to patience, both hers and mine.
Still, my wife and I don’t have a great track record of riding bikes together, and while we are very happily married, there are good reasons we don’t ride well together. We’re of different abilities, and it’s hard to find a good common ground. She insists on being in control all of the time, which means we need to stick to terrain she knows, and that limits us because she doesn’t ride nearly as much as I do. And I am prone to darting off in various directions with little warning. I like to explore hidden trails and other nonsense, and that all makes her uncomfortable.
Still, none of that needs to matter. When I’m patient, and I give her my time and understanding, it goes well no matter what the ride looks like. I can give that, and I want to, because being with her matters more than riding with her, even when I’m riding with her. This same principle extends to my kids, my friends, my co-workers, my community. Patience. Slow down. Give people the time and space they need. Just that.
This week’s TCI Friday asks, what do you have to give? What can you contribute to the people in your life, whether they’re cyclists or not? What can you give to the broader cycling community? What do you give now? Tell us what that looks like.
The thing that I can give … and get better at giving … is the reminder to look for ways to include rather than exclude. Helmet straps can be on the inside or outside of glasses … or both at the same time! A MTB helmet is fine on a road ride. Sock length doesn’t matter no matter what the UCI says.
My instinctive reaction when I see a slower/less “pro” looking cyclist (yes, those people exist relative to me, even if not in great numbers!) is one of superiority. I hate that feeling, and I almost always instantly remind myself that if they’re on a bike, they’re one of us.
I learned that from someone wise …
First, just be a nice person to everyone. Everyone. Whether the person is a vegan on a bicycle or a guy in leather with colors on a Harley-Davidson (we have a rally of bicyclists and motorcyclists at the state capitol every year and some of the lycra crowd found the idea of mingling with the leather and V-twin crowd soooo ickey). Right now there is too much polarization, too much identity politics that pulls us apart.
See someone with a breakdown on a ride? Stop and help, even if its a mental breakdown. See someone riding alone? Offer to shoot the shit. Secondly, figure out what you are comfortable contributing and then contribute. It could be one on one mentoring, being on a committee, fixing old bikes for a nonprofit, teaching kids Bike Ed, escorting disabled riders, or supporting some cause such as the local century ride. Just find a place to fit in and try it. Sure, there is stage-fright. That happens with everything. Good local bicycle organizations are always looking for folks with different kinds of talents, whether ride leaders, writers, or folks to staff the food stops on the century ride. I once was president of the Hawaii Bicycling League because I am a terribly introverted policy wonk, but comfortable leading organizations as long as it doesn’t mean I have to kiss babies.
Me? I am often terribly boring as a teacher so I get on committees and do civic work, which is more wonkish. Bike and Ped advisory committees, a transportation advisory board, a university safety committee, working with my city councilors, boards of directors, etc. Or I find bargain basement parts on Nashbar and troll the roads on garbage day for old bikes people are tossing, fix them up, and donate to the local nonprofit.In my other life, I like wrenching things.
Like the commercial says, just do it.
Mrs. Robot is a good sport.
I gave up coaching after about the third try. Because, what could the guy who’s been doing this for 30+ years possibly know? Now we just ride, and that’s fine.