When attorney Greg Bishop moved to Park City in 2009, he had never ridden a mountain bike before. Soon afterward he purchased his first bike, but he rode infrequently for the first few years. However, in the Spring of 2018, he began riding almost daily with his wife. Since then, they have been lucky enough to ride in some very beautiful places: Park City, Utah; Sedona, Arizona; Telluride, Colorado; and Sun Valley, Idaho, among others.
While Mr. Bishop doesn’t pretend to be an expert, mountain biking has taught him some important lessons. He explains that the relationship among direction, momentum, and balance is key on a mountain bike. The connection is most apparent when making a 180° turn on an uphill switchback, which requires enough momentum to maintain balance, but not so much to be unable to negotiate the tight turn.
As illogical as it may seem, mountain biking require keeping both the big picture and the details firmly in mind at all times. Seeing the overall view not only makes it possible to appreciate the surrounding beauty, but it also helps anticipate what adjustments in direction or momentum may be necessary. Similarly, focusing on the details makes it possible to avoid any immediate barriers. There is literally no end to the types of obstructions one might encounter while mountain biking – fallen trees, protruding roots, powdery sand, narrow single-track, steep cliffs, loose rocks, tight switchbacks, low branches, and wild animals to name a few. The key to maintaining direction is to keep one’s eyes well down the path and use one’s peripheral vision to avoid immediate threats.
Momentum means moving in the planned direction. Unlike many other sports, mountain biking allows a person to keep their cadence fairly constant, using smaller or larger gears depending on whether that part of the trail is flat, uphill or downhill. Momentum also allows a person to power over most barriers. If a rider doesn’t have enough momentum, an otherwise insignificant obstruction will bring a rider to a dead stop, particularly when riding in a climb. Ironically, too much momentum can also cause a loss of direction or balance. The key to momentum is finding the sweet spot – moving fast enough to power over the problems, but not so fast that a rider may lose control.
Balance keeps a rider upright when the center of gravity shifts beneath him as he rides. While most of us are familiar with the left-right balance of riding a bike, there two other axes of balance: front-back and high-low. Front-back balance comes into play in steep inclines and declines, where a rider need to get out over their handlebars in a climb or move toward the back of their seat when bombing down a trail. Similarly, high-low balance (which requires using a hydraulic seat post that can be raised and lowered on the fly) lets ya rider sit high in a climb (allowing them to get full leg extension) and low in a steep descent (allowing them to get your center of gravity lower). Properly balancing a rider’s body on the bike is also important, requiring a rider to engage their core muscles so that their body weight is properly distributed across the three points of contact with their bike – their handlebars, pedals, and seat. For example, leaning straight-armed on their handlebars (rather than engaging your core) will fatigue their neck and shoulders, as well as make it more difficult to turn quickly (since they will be using their shoulders to turn their handlebars rather than their hands).
Retirement – It’s Like Riding a Bike
While direction, momentum, and balance are important when riding a mountain bike, Greg Bishop suggests that they are even more important as a rider moves into retirement. Before retiring, a person’s life’s direction is largely dictated by what they do for a living. Where they live, who they associate with, how they spend their time, and when they take vacation, are all primarily determined by their employment. In contrast, after retiring – when no longer dancing to someone else’s music – retirees are able (perhaps for the first time) to determine their own direction. While the prospect can be daunting, it is worthy of careful reflection, both before retiring and after.
But deciding on life’s direction in retirement is not enough – one must also take enough action to generate momentum. As on a mountain bike, maintaining a consistent cadence will be important, gearing up or down depending on how easy or difficult things are at the moment. Moreover, momentum needs to be fast enough to power over the inevitable problems, but not so fast to lose control.
Finally, while direction and momentum are important, together they are still insufficient – a rider must also maintain balance. Like mountain biking, proper balance requires staying centered, and enaging the core.
About: Greg Bishop is an attorney with extensive experience in litigation, corporate work, M&A, licensing, IPO preparation, and HR, as well as corporate and board governance. Personally, he is passionate about helping others, including spending seven years working closely with the largest organization helping the homeless in Washington, D.C. In his free time, he enjoys the outdoors, mountain biking and traveling, as well as helping others achieve personal and professional success.