I think I can’t

Many routes look harder than they really are. Driving up (or down) a mountain pass in your car, you might think there is no way you could ever ride that course on your bike. But you know what? I’ll bet you could. I’ll bet anyone in decent shape could. And by decent, I really mean average. If you ride regularly, no matter your rank in the pack, you can do pretty much any route – as long as you think you can.

Back in 2005, when I was just getting back into cycling, I did the Ride the Rockies week-long tour through Colorado, going over numerous mountain passes. On the way back to Phoenix afterwards, I happened to drive a significant chunk of the route. On one stretch of highway, the road went down, down, down, for twenty, thirty miles. From the perspective of the Jeep, it looked like a very hard ride to do on a bike, going the other way.

Yet I had done just that a few days before. And I didn’t remember it being all that difficult. More importantly, I didn’t remember ever thinking that I couldn’t do it. It was a given that I could.

One day I tried to get a few friends to climb Scottsdale Mountain in northeast Scottsdale. One rider in particular wasn’t all that strong, but I knew she could make it to the top if she’d just try. She’d done the companion climb, Hidden Hills, many times. While Scottsdale Mountain is harder, it’s not that much harder.

But my friend didn’t think she could do Scottsdale Mountain, and I had trouble getting her to try. So I applied a bit of reverse psychology. The idea was to make the climb optional. I told her we’d do Hidden Hills first, and then afterwards, start up Scottsdale Mountain. I told her that at any point, if she wanted to turn around, we would. We started up Scottsdale Mountain, and I made it a point to keep her engaged in conversation – to keep her mind off the fact she was climbing this supposedly tough hill. We rode slowly, spinning in our granny gears. Next thing you know, we were at the top. She was shocked that she actually made it.

Now she insists on doing this climb every time we ride this way.

Some of my cycling friends seem in awe when they hear of me doing double century rides, or rides like the Triple Bypass. They shouldn’t be in awe. They could do these same rides too. But when I say to them, in all sincerity, that if I can do these rides, then they can too — they never believe me.

All rides, when it comes down to it, involve putting one pedal in front of the other, over and over. That’s all there is to it. Sure, it might take you a while to get up a seemingly impossible hill, or ride seemingly impossible miles. But unless we’re talking 20% grades, or doing 300 miles a day or something, most such challenges can be conquered by anyone who rides regularly, and puts in a little training. Even an average rider – like myself.

You don’t believe me, huh?

See what I mean?

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