You know how you can ride for day after day, month after month, and nothing goes wrong? Then at the most inopportune moment, something happens. A mechanical, a flat, or maybe a crash.
We spent the Christmas holiday in Grants Pass, Oregon (pictured above). It’s great to spend the holidays with extended family and I always take a bike with me. Southern Oregon is a great place to ride a bike. Granted, it’s not the place you would normally associate with great riding in December but temps are usually hovering in the mid-40′s during the day so it’s not too bad. This year the weather looked like rain (surprise) so I took the Winter Rig. It’s amazing how a change of scene, new roads, different routes, can bring inspiration to get out there. I always go up with a little plan, some new loop or climb to try out. Most often, it’s a solo ride but we’ve been going up there long enough over the years so I know a few other riders to meet up with.
I got a few dry, relatively warm rides in before Christmas. But the day after Christmas, it didn’t look good. I thought to myself that if there’s one day with horrible conditions then that’s not so bad. Pouring rain and 35 degrees. I posted a few weeks ago about the guts it takes to get out and ride when you’re not feeling like it so I figured I better take my own advice. I put on nearly every piece of cycling clothing I own (after properly embrocating, of course) and headed out for a solo loop.
That day after Christmas, I was about 45 minutes outside of town in pouring, near-freezing rain and I felt my back tire go soft. Not a big deal. I would have liked to change it under some cover so I rode about 10 minutes on a spongy rear wheel until I found an old barn on the side of the road with an overhang. I pulled out my multi-tool to take the bolts off (no quick-release on a fixed gear). The tiny wrench on the tool was slightly larger than the bolt and in the rain I just couldn’t get the wrench to hold on the bolt. I’ve changed flats with this thing in dry conditions in the past and never had any problems. But this was turning out to be a problem. Close to stripping the bolt, I figured I better try to find someplace nearby that would have a tool that would fit better.
I turned back towards town on the now completely flat wheel and rode until I came across a gas station. That’s 30 minutes of riding on the rim. Slowly. In a big fixed-gear. Did I mention the weather? Miserable. But my own fault for not having a perfectly fitted tool. The gas station attendant thought I was crazy, which I was, for riding around in a storm on a flat tire. But I got it fixed no problem and headed off to ride a little bit more until I couldn’t feel my fingers.
The irony is that I wasn’t bummed about the ride but actually stoked. Adventure often isn’t something that’s planned. Sure, you can GPS your route and go off on an epic ride but adventure is what happens when something goes wrong. I came home that day, unclipped in the garage, and actually felt grateful for the little mishap.
Character and integrity are revealed not when times are good but when things go wrong.
Now, I don’t want to blow a little flat tire out of proportion cause it really was not that huge a deal in the big picture. But it made me think of more difficult times, not on the bike but in life. Character and integrity are revealed not when times are good but when things go wrong, when life is hard. Those times are actually opportunities presented to us that can serve to forge our character and strengthen our integrity.
Bikes get flats. Deals don’t go through. Our kids get into trouble. Things go wrong. Situations don’t turn out like we expected. Life is hard. We can spend a lot of time and energy worrying about what might happen (I know I do) but at some time it will hit the fan. It’s not those tough moments that define us but it’s how we react, what we do, how we handle those moments that define and forge our character.
Personal growth and transformation happen through stress and recovery, just like fitness. Here’s hoping that next time you flat or something doesn’t quite work out the way you expected, you come back stronger because of the experience.