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Business Lesson from a Single-Speed Bike

The first time I jumped on a Single-speed there was a natural connection. My body immediately responded to a change in pitch by standing up and pulling on the handbars. I suddenly felt lighter and more powerful on the climbs as I began to use my entire body to get up that hill. Out of 22 years of riding MTB's, for 15 of them I have had an obsessive dedication to riding with only one gear. Now if you have never tried to climb a mountain on a single speed, you might think we are kind of crazy. Honestly, I have learned so many powerful lessons about myself, life, the wilderness, and yes business, on a one geared bike that maybe by the end of this, you might want to give it a try for yourself.

Here's the deal: when you get on a bike that only has one gear you find the zone in a whole new way. Sometimes it's flat and your completely spun out and can't go any faster. At first, you might find yourself going completely anarobic trying to spin your legs at hyperspeed to stay "on top of the gear", but with a bit of practice, you'll realize that this is your chance to spin into recovery. Then when you hit that perfect pitch, you'll find yourself flying upwards and in no time you'll be standing up like a kid! Nothing to think about except you and pedaling. The bike is so simple and light, that soon the connection to how your own body responds to the terrain is an addictive game.

I've learned that I can keep climbing long after I think I can: Ok, unless you are on that perfect grade that matches your gear ratio, climbing a mountain on a single-speed is a lot harder then on a geared bike- -until it's not. Let me explain: When you've got 21 gears and you start up a mountain, what do you do? You shift into a gear easy enough to remain sitting on your butt with all of your weight heavy on the back of your bike. You pedal against gravity and through force, carry yourself up. What happens when the pitch gets steeper or you get tired? You shift into an easier gear, right? What happens when you run out of gears? If you're an advanced rider, you may just shift back up a gear and see if you can access a different muscle group to let the tired set rest, or you might stand up to access power in your upper body as well.

On a single-speed, this is the only way to get up the hill. If the pitch changes the only shifting is within your own body. Shifting from one muscle group to another to stay on top of that gear. The beauty in this comes with body awareness. As single-speeders we stand up a lot more when we climb, because it's easier! When your standing up, your body mass is directly over your pedals allowing your weight to contribute directly to the force that it takes to carry you up the mountain. Combining this with your center of gravity being in front of your cranks, and the use of your entire muscular system (rather then sitting and pedaling with your legs) climbing on a singlespeed can be really effiecient. Now what happen's when the pitch gets steeper? Maybe you pull on the handlebars more, using your arms. With experience, you start accessing your core as your power source. Even when the pitch gets really tough, it's absolutely amazing how present the single speed keeps you. Sometimes in the hardest part of my climbs I will find my body so far forward that I'm almost hanging over my bars looking at the ground in front of me (or the top of the hill if I can see it!). I ask myself to dig deep and shift my weight from one pedal stroke to the next. One, by one, by one, I get up that mountain! As soon as the pitch gets easier, I can feel it throughout my body. I naturally respond by increasing my cadence, which makes me go faster and automatically switches to a different muscle group (fast twitch vs slow twitch). This is where the magic happens-boom! Instant recovery for those exhausted slow twitch.

In this internal shifting process the body becomes stronger and endurance builds. Even the downhills create a different sort of recovery on a singlespeed as your growing body awareness keeps you in tune with using your weight more effieciently.

In Business: As an entrepreneur, patience and persistance are essential to getting where we want to go. This practice of pushing myself to the max and staying present in each pedal stroke to overcome the mountain has prepared me to deal with many challenges that running a business has thrown at me. Instead of giving up when things don't go as planned, I respond with new awareness each time and I know that I can get through it, because I can climb that mountain!

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