Placing the Goalposts

I took a couple of shifts pedalling the Asheville Bike Taxi over the past weekend. This great little venture is the brainchild of an old college classmate, and she’s a pioneer, opening the eyes of the pedicab manufacturer to the realities and possibilities of getting people around a hilly town. It was a fun couple of days, and something I hope to keep doing here and there.

It was also another opportunity to re-examine some of my own misconceptions. When I first started bike commuting, I would fret over doing it “right”. I worried that I wasn’t fit enough. I worried that I didn’t look the part. I worried that I’d failed whenever I chose to drive instead of ride. Thankfully, I’ve shed some of those tendencies as I grown older, but a milder version of that same self-doubt reared its ugly head when I signed on for the pedicab. What if I couldn’t do it? What if I wasn’t strong enough? What if I got stuck on an uphill, embarrassing both my passengers and myself?

My very first fare on Saturday was an overweight couple—she obese, he morbidly so. They had a blast. So did I.

Those worries? Those what if I’m not good enough, fit enough, “cyclist” enough questions that keep us from riding? They’re nonsense. 

I’m not saying there might not be some validity to asking them. Maybe you aren’t as fit as you could be. Maybe you don’t look like every other cyclist on the road. Maybe you are uncomfortable riding in traffic.

Fine. Use that to motivate, not flagellate. Keep riding–you’ll get more fit. Keep riding–you don’t have to wear a jersey or clip in to your pedals to do it “right”. Keep riding (and get educated)–one day you’ll find yourself merging into a line of cars to make that left turn and realize not only that you can do this, but that you are doing it.

I think many of us limit ourselves (consciously or unconsciously) because we’re using the wrong yardstick to measure. Behind the scenes here, I occasionally get caught up in some anguish over not starting Bike-Ready the “right” way—but our definition of success is different from what you’ll find imposed on most entrepreneurs. We aren’t interested in hiring a manufacturer and selling a million bags. We are interested in working with our own two (okay, four) hands, developing relationships with our customers, and playing our small part in advancing and normalizing the bike as transportation. If we can give one person the tools she needs to take one more trip by bike than she otherwise might have? That’s success. We’re not changing the definition of that word—my dictionary defines success as the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted—but nor are we accepting someone else’s criteria for meeting it.

It’s all about where you place the goalposts.  Interested in biking to work, but not sure you’ve got the skills or know how to pack or what route you’ll take? Don’t make your criteria for success be I’ll ride to work every single day, without fail, starting tomorrow. Instead, try something like, I’ll ride to work one day next week. Take some time this week to scout out the best route, consider what you’ll change about your routine, and make sure you’ve got a lock and know how to use it (or a secure place to store your bike at work). See how that’s far more likely to lead to success?

If you’re bike-curious and in the Asheville area, do join us this Saturday for the Pumpkin Pedaller, the annual Halloween community ride put on by nonprofit Asheville On Bikes. It’s a great opportunity for new or less confident cyclers to get on the road in the safety of a large group. Look for Dion and me at the back of the pack, wearing bright pink “Sweeper” sashes. We’d love to say hi, and high-five you for riding.

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