Take the High Road

Every rider meets a challenge:  To get on the bike, to ride a new trail or road, to ride a new distance or speed, or to ascend a climb.   Each endeavor starts with a goal set and a vision of what will be the result. At the start of the ride the cyclist cannot see the end location but the mental image of the destination gives them the focus on their goal.  During this journey, the cyclist grows from the experience, learning how the physical elements of strength, endurance, and riding technique, as well as the mental elements of strategy, discipline, fortitude, and planning, factor into reaching the goal.  Therein lies the experiences that can be transformed and applied in the practice of Cycle Advocacy. 

“The Climb” is a special part of cycling that presents challenges and rewards for each cyclist that are as unique as every rise, hill or mountain.  Two riders will climb the same hill, but each will have an individual experience. Both riders will know themselves better at the top.    

The Advocates Spin:  Meet the challenge of Advocacy with Lessons from a Climb.

The Climb, that next rise or the last hill, no matter how many feet, may be a simple effort, the next ordeal or the greatest challenge that you have ever faced, but the experience of meeting the challenge is one that becomes part of your being.  Climbing, unlike descending, riding in a draft, or coasting on a beautiful stretch of ground, truly leaves the cyclist to their own power and perseverance- there is no free ride as it is the Cyclist and the Climb. In racing, The Climb is the crucible that reveals each Cyclist’s skills, strengths, and weaknesses, making for the ultimate drama of the sport.  For the mere mortals on two wheels, every hill, rise, mountain and climb gives the cyclist the experience and confidence that demonstrates the ability to meet the challenges of Advocacy.  

While each climb is as unique as the rider taking up the ascent, there are several key elements in the ride that provide examples for the Advocacy.  To attain the climb, each cyclist must use a combination of gears and cadence to reach their goal. Depending on the gearing available, the characteristics of the bike, and the profile of the climb, the cyclist must measure and calculate their own ability, skills, resolve and vision against the physical environment which they must traverse to reach their goal.

Gears multiply effort over distance allowing the cyclist to spin a little faster but easier or enabling the cyclist to get over a steep rise or obstacle on the path. Do you pick a big gear or spin at a high cadence?  Do you keep a set speed or adjust to changes in elevation and distance over the course? Do you ride straight up the rise or tack to reduce the grade and lengthen the distance?  

At times the cyclist will stand for strength, to employ different muscles, or to stretch so as to energize and reposition the body for more effort.  Do you keep a regular interval for standing or wait for the steep rise or fatigue and stiffness to get out of the saddle?

How long do you stand and how much effort do you apply?

Eyes on the prize:  Keeping a mental image, a vision of the goal, is crucial to attaining the top, but many find that keeping their head down and focused on climbing rather than looking for the end in sight is essential to a good climb.  Here, many will say that the Climb is ninety percent mental and that looking for the objective is counter-productive, diminishing the effort required to achieve the ascent and disheartening the resolve when the false top in view is not the end of the ordeal.  Simply put, the successful discipline for many is to focus on the task under foot and never lose sight of the vision in your mind.   

Pushing Through the Limits of Body and Mind:  During the Climb cyclists will meet the physical challenge with resolve by reaching inside to find the intersection of desire, fortitude and tenacity necessary to rise and achieve the top. The point of physical challenge is different for everyone, be it on a small hill or an epic mountain, yet the ordeal is known to all who take up the wheel as their vehicle of change.  From the physical challenge, the Climb tests personal strength and builds character that is taken to the next ascent. We find what we perceive to be our limits and push through to a higher level of strength and understanding of what one can accomplish.  

Reaching the top brings relief, elation, and confidence as the attainment of a goal gives new strength, motivation and perspective on what can be achieved, as well as an example to others.  The cyclist will have learned as much about the physical climb as they will have learned about themselves. Reaching the top of the Climb inspires others and fuels commitment in the rider and those that see or hear of the possibilities realized.  

Reaching the mountaintop is a fundamental metaphor of the civil rights movement, establishing vision for the ultimate goal of integration in a single beloved community.    The Cycle Advocates platform embraces and draws upon the principles, methods and lessons of the non-violent civil rights movements, with a goal toward revealing the value of cycling as an integrated part of the American Community.  Each population seeking acceptance and integration into the community brings its own perspectives and experiences to the movement, and it is the perspectives and lessons unique to cycling that provide Cyclists with the experiences that they can apply in their advocacy.  Lessons from The Climb give Cycle Advocates the skills and inspiration to reach the Mountaintop.

Look for another Advocates Spin on “The Long Road.”

Keep those wheels in motion. 

Stretch and Strengthen Your Body and Mind

The natural response to repeated physical challenge is increased strength through adaptation. Repetition also builds “muscle memory” by reinforcing neurological pathways. Moreover, the repeated challenge activity builds mental confidence through familiarity and demonstrated improvement.  These physical challenges to muscle and joint also create tension and stiffness which can be a source of reduced ability to exercise properly or attain further improvements in strength and coordination. Stretching is a slow, methodical and deliberate practice that requires patience but rewards with increased motion and flexibility.  The reward for time and effort invested in stretching is undeniable while the failure to stretch limits motion, proper form, and invites injury that defeats the goal of increased strength. Accordingly, stretch and strengthen are both necessary for successful long-term improvement. 

The Advocates Spin: Cyclists Stretch and Strengthen The Cycle of Advocacy with every Ride and Give 5 practice on and off the bike.

Cycling stretches the limits of riders both physically and mentally by combining the benefits of physical exercise with personal growth through the experience and perspective gained by traveling at the speed of bike.  It is this very strengthening and stretching of the cyclist that lays the foundation for cycle advocacy. When practiced with Intention, one simple ride can improve or reinforce the physical strength, coordination, confidence, riding and advocacy skills of the cyclist. 

Cycling can take riders to interesting places around the world and within themselves as they meet both the challenges of the ride and people from all walks of life in the course of travel.  Traveling at the speed of bike is as much a state of mind and social experience as it is a measure of distance, time, and elevation. Cycling gives riders a broad and diverse experience, putting riders in touch with the physical world propelled by their own desire to see, feel, sense, and engage their world in a beautiful activity that provides a unique perspective.  Cyclists know that riding can make them a better person physically and mentally – the strengthening and stretching of riding expands the cyclist as a human being, with the potential of making each rider a bigger person.  

We cyclists should demonstrate these characteristics, the benefits of our passion for cycling, in our practices of Advocacy.  Cycle Advocates can demonstrate the benefits of riding in the physical strength to ride according to SSEA and GIVE 5 practices, and the personal strength to execute the principles of these programs in daily activities and the face of adversity.  We can strengthen ourselves and stretch beyond our limits in a Cycle of Advocacy that makes each advocate more capable and confident in their efforts to build an integrated community where cycling is valued.  

Riding with the Intention of being a Cycle Advocate builds strength and skills for the individual that improves their cycling and their advocacy.  When the cyclist adopts and executes the Cycle Advocates programs and practices, they are improving Advocacy Practices and expanding influence in the community in a win-win scenario.  

Positive engagement with the community calculated to raise positive awareness of the value of cycling, on and off the bike, is rewarding for the individual and the community.  Each action that builds identity, acknowledgement, and acceptance, increases the energy and strength of the cyclist and the cause for integration. When, for example, the cyclist acknowledges a driver with a High 5 Waive, Thanks, or other Courtesy, the driver feels better about themselves.  This is one of the golden rules of friendship: “If you want people to like you, make them feel good about themselves.” fn1  Engaging advocacy through positive reward provides awareness of and community identity with the cyclist.  Moreover, the positive engagement and reward sets an example that others who observe the interaction will want to attain.  In this simple scenario, the cyclist gains identification with the driver, and lays the foundation for inclusion- the driver perceives the cyclist as a friend to protect rather than an impediment or element of chaos and unpredictability.  The Cyclists’ strength and ability to stretch in positive Advocacy sets an example that builds understanding, empathy, and inclusion.  

Positive engagement off the bike provides a broad variety of opportunities for the Cyclist to share experiences touting the benefits of cycling with others.  To the non-cyclist, riding can seem foreign and inconceivable, but the Cycle Advocate can help relate the beauty and joy of a ride as well as the victories, rewards and broad experiences that cycling provides.  To fellow cyclists, the Cycle Advocate can share the efforts and rewards they have experienced in building a community that values cycling. Cyclists should be ambassadors of the ride, spreading the benefits, growth, and innumerable gains that time on the bike can provide, by Giving 5 Percent of their time and/or 5 Rides to others in stretching and strengthening cycling in the community.  

Cycling Advocacy is challenging and requires physical dedication and personal strength to Take the High Road, meeting adversity with a goal of inclusion.  As detailed in the graphic, the Cycle of Advocacy applies to individual improvement and community building.  Just like a good workout and stretch, the exercise of cycle advocacy can be challenging, exhausting, and rewarding with improved strength and flexibility that provides the momentum to move cycling toward the ultimate goal of integration as a valued part of the American community.  The results for cycling are individual, immediate, communal, and far reaching.

 Keep those wheels in motion.

1. Jack Schafer, PhD, (former FBI Behavioral Analyst), The Like Switch.

We all remember the bad drivers

“So this car at a stop sign pulls right out in front of me and then at the next intersection the driver starts yelling at me for being on the road.” Cyclists hear and exchange these stories on far too routine a basis and sadly these experiences bubble up to the top of our minds for what was otherwise a nice bike ride. There’s no shortage of bad experiences while cycling even though these events typically reflect a very small percentage of the cyclist’s interaction with others during a ride. Of course the reason these events are pinned at the top of our recollection of the ride is because of the danger and emotional outrage. These episodes of danger and emotion are not limited to experiences with drivers as cyclists have certainly had a share of difficulties with pedestrians and even fellow cyclists.

How cyclists deal with these events at the moment and later during a ride or a conversation also creates a lasting impression.  And so, cyclists must be careful with the impressions made and perceptions of their actions and reactions. These episodes also present an opportunity for a calculated response that benefits the cyclist and cycling community by demonstrating, literally and figuratively, the value of cycling.

The Advocates Spin: Make the Impression that Benefits you and your fellow Cyclists

The Cycle Advocates programs, Give 5 and SSEA, developed out of a civil rights integration platform, detail positive interaction which cyclists should use to build acceptance, empathy, and inclusion of cycling within the community. These positive engagement practices raise awareness of the persons with whom the cyclist is interacting, but just as importantly, others who observe and perceive the interaction from the viewpoint of a non-cyclist or even another cyclist.  Cycle Advocates can generate empathy and identity with members of the community through consistent uniform actions that acknowledge and reward the other person, creating positive engagement and triggering identification and inclusion of cyclists as valued and protected.  

If, on the other hand, cyclists are the “bad driver” experience that our fellow citizens remember, then cycling suffers from the episode.  By definition, the perception of what is a “bad cyclist” is very subjective, ranging from mere presence of a cyclist on the road or pathway, to allowing for all but the most egregious behavior as acceptable.    Certainly there will always be elements of the extreme, but it is the vast majority of members of the community who will form their perspective from experience with cyclists and the lack of experience with how to interact with cyclists.  Perspective, the point from which one views and perceives information, is malleable and subject to reformation given the proper groundwork to reveal different positions that benefit the observer. The methods of setting the stage for change and obtaining revelation are better served by application of honey than vinegar.  That is to say, one can better invite change by leading the subject with consistent kindness and reward than argument and scorn. The former brings people together integrating a community, while the latter, if successful, seeds divisive identity and resentment. The opportunity to demonstrate these principles through cycling is a valuable tool in the Cycle Advocates platform.       

Perception and the American motorist:  Most drivers identify themselves with their automobile.  This culture of individual identity has fueled automobile sales for over one hundred years and contributed to the suppression of mass transportation.  The individual’s automobile identity combined with the highway and road infrastructure has also set the “me versus the other guy” mindset of adversity that is manifest in various acts of aggression, disregard, and road rage prevalent in American road society.  To be sure, the automobile transportation system is one of individualism and adversity, energized by the convenience of getting there quickly.

Enter the Cyclist:  Most of the American infrastructure was not built with a vision toward multiple use by automobiles, cyclists, and even pedestrians.  And most American drivers have little to no experience or education with regard to how and where cycling fits into their system of transportation.  Thus, in a charged system of adversity built around the concept of individual identity, convenience, and haste, the American driver is most often frustrated and apprehensive when dealing with cyclists.  Cycle Advocates believe that most American drivers are not overtly opposed to cycling and even harbor a deep seated fondness for cycling arising from their own childhood experiences. Yet even the best intentioned driver is challenged with the danger, worry, and liability of an automobile-bicycle collision.  “I was worried the bicycle might fall over into the road.” “I was afraid the bike might turn into my car.” Sadly, on the other end of the American driver perspective is the lack of desire to pay for dedicated cycling trails, paths, and protected lanes despite the broad ranging immediate and long term benefits that would inure to the entire community.  

Right, wrong, or as is truly the case when the answer is not yes or no, cyclists are seen as an impediment and unpredictable element on the road that make drivers anxious. Cycling remains a fringe activity among most communities, obscured by an automobile culture that does not understand how to interact with cyclists.  How will this stage of isolation and friction ever produce anything more than uneasy coexistence? How do friends of cycling turn this paradigm into one of acceptance, value, inclusion and integration? Slowly at first, with the patience and positive attitude that drives a bike down a long road or up a lengthy climb, gathering momentum and confidence as the distance is traversed.

Positive Engagement- Breaking the Us and Them perception with Acknowledgment

Unfortunately, cyclist practices of interaction with automobiles, pedestrians and even other cyclists are scattered and inconsistent.  As a result, cyclists remain random unpredictable elements creating reactions ranging from confusion, apprehension, tension, to aggression, with little room for acceptance.   The solution to resolve these problems, as with most lack of understanding, starts with effective communication of a Coherent and Consistent message. 

“Cycling Needs Unified Practices on and off the bicycle that engage Cyclists and the Community, expanding presence, awareness, empathy, acceptance, and value of Cycling.”  Cycle Advocates GIVE 5 and SSEA programs address the need for unified practices.

Uniformity is the Key- Empathy is the force that turns the mind toward Integration

Consistent safe riding practices which respect the local rules of the road and community laws are an essential foundation with which to build Positive Engagement. Cyclists must start their advocacy by understanding and observation of local rules of the road, as well as riding in a predictable manner consistent with the law.  But conformity with the law is not sufficient to change the perspective of the driving public, pedestrian, or erratic cyclist. Advocates must lead by example that engages others through acknowledgement such as the GIVE 5 practices. Advocates will take the initiative to break the perception of isolated individualism, appealing to positive reward and mutual identification.  Thank the driver for their actions in trying to cope with the bicycle, and give them a High 5 waive and a smile when they accommodate cycling.  Signal or waive to the apprehensive motorist, giving them a little more space or time.  The little gestures stand out against an otherwise bleak landscape of transportation. Drivers will remember this conduct as it directly relates to them through positive acknowledgment.   

The “Bad Driver” Cyclist: Beyond good cycling practices consistent with the law, under no circumstances should engagement on the road, path, coffee shop or social gathering be negative.  Few to none are open to a lecture or being corrected. Correction, reprimand, terse remarks, or derogatory exchanges will not convince others drivers or pedestrians to change behaviors, and will more likely raise tension and antagonism against cyclists.  Worse yet, this tension and antagonism will likely manifest in ways that make cycling the road and path less safe and cycling viewed negatively. The cyclist seen in an antagonistic exchange will not create a positive or empathetic response, and most other non-cyclists will perceive cyclists negatively as a result.   Cycle Advocates seek to set positive examples for integration rather than a reinforcement of negative perceptions and attitudes toward cycling.

The path to integration requires the dissolution of the false perception that the problem is a matter of Us and Them- there is only Us, all of Us, and it is the role of the Advocate to reveal the benefits of integration to those who view the community with the eyes of division.  This truth, the ultimate reality of community, is revealed through demonstration of positive acts and exercise of civil rights in a manner that builds community. Advocates must show the community to the better way, to a better community. This truth will lead the community to Protect Cycling rather than prohibit its growth and inclusion.  

Keep those wheels in motion.