Always Check The Brakes

My husband and I have ridden thousands, and thousands, of miles on our bikes.

Some days the riding is smooth and easy and I feel like I can ride for ever.   It’s like I was made to be on a bike.

Then, there’s those other days.  I get on a bike.  And I pedal, and pedal, and pedal.  I find myself questioning the demise of my abilities.  Without notice.  Without warning.  Suddenly,  it seems I just can’t make that bike move.  Like today.  I rode well and fast.  After stopping to meet up with my husband, who wasn’t riding, for bicycle food (aka ice cream) I got on my bike and continued my merry way.   But suddenly I was unable to move that bike like I had been just thirty minutes earlier.  Suddenly, I had lost all power and stamina.

I don’t know why it usually takes me a while to remember.  But after a mile of thinking my biking abilities were abandoning me…..I remembered.

Check the brakes.

I need to check the brakes before I start doubting myself and all that I know in the world.  I need to get off of the bike and pick up the back end of the bike and spin the tire.  If it moves freely, I need to pick up the front end of the bike and spin that tire.  When the riding is tougher than I expect it to be, if I think to check the brakes, nine out of ten times it’s because somehow the brake got locked on.   Putting pressure on the tire without my knowledge.  Slowing me down.  Creating doubts.

Like today.  Somehow the front brake got locked on.  I spun that front tire, it stopped instead of spinning.  I adjusted the brakes.  I went on.  Happily.

I guess because I’m not putting the brakes on, it doesn’t occur to me that they may be on.  Maybe they got stuck the last time I used them.   Maybe in the loading and unloading the bikes as they are hauled here and there, the brakes get knocked out of place.

I readjust the brakes.   And when I start to pedal, I fly.  Because there’s nothing holding me back.  And I’m still expending the energy and effort I was all along.  But now, it works better.

The things that slow us down aren’t always things that we do or don’t do.   I didn’t put the brakes on today.  But something stuck that front brake on and it slowed me down none the less.  Sometimes the brakes have nothing to do with me.  But the things we’re using, or trying, or the things that influence us from outside sources are what’s putting those brakes on.  Sometimes it’s what’s in front of us slowing us down, or what’s behind us pulling on us.

Check your brakes people.  Even if you aren’t on a bike.

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44 thoughts on “Always Check The Brakes

  1. Paul says:

    Sniff, Sniff. Ha! Good advice Colleen. Literally check any input that cold be dragging and causing loss of energy or momentum. Or figuratively – perhaps a boss that’s not invested and is causing delays in a project.

    When I drove tractor-trailer that was a critical activity – always making sure the brakes were properly adjusted, not too tight and not too slack. On the B-train gas tankers there were 16 brakes (30 wheels) and every one of them had to be properly maintained and adjusted. Looked like this:

    We used to check brakes before leaving and then stop every 2 hours or so and re-check the brakes. One quick way to get a good read on your brakes was to sniff them (hence the “Sniff, Sniff” at the beginning) and place an open palm a few inches from the hub. If they were too tight, you could smell the heat and feel it on your palm. If they were too slack, there would be no smell and it would feel cold. If they were just right – having just stopped- they would smell lightly and feel just warm.

  2. 1jaded1 says:

    Wise advice.

  3. Ocean Bream says:

    Wow, you are so right, especially about doubting yourself and your life hahah that was hilarious. Literally, this is sound advice, and frankly a lot of cycling doubts come from not checking brakes. Figuratively, this is also sound advice, and the brakes of life come in all shapes and sizes. Great read!

  4. ksbeth says:

    love this metaphor for life –

  5. This is the truth! There are always things that are out of our control that is causing us to slow down or not be able to move forward easily. We should always check our brakes! Great advice!

  6. Val Boyko says:

    Great post for riding life Colleen! 😎

  7. Ha ha. I thought you were leading up to a different reason for going nowhere fast. After 30 minutes one way, I thought your joints had locked up. Specifically your knees. Ha ha ha.
    Glad to hear it was the bike, not you, that was locked. 😀

  8. A wonderful metaphor!

  9. Good advice. Check brakes and tethers and anything else that won’t let you ride your bike like ET. Remember? And for sure enjoy the icecream.

  10. Holly says:

    I had to get brakes this weekend to pass my state inspection, so yeah, checked and done.

  11. Love this post and your bike-life advice! xxx

  12. reocochran says:

    This is an absolutely fantastic reminder! Outside forces may be slowing you down, but you can fix them or adjust yourself to get around them. . . I am forgetful of this, often. Readjusting ourselves is easier than readjustingbothers. I am extending my lesson to include yours plus a smidge more, (for my own brain,i had to write this down!)

  13. Debra says:

    Colleen, this is such an excellent way to remember to take stock of what is keeping us stuck, or holding us back. Or just slowing us down! Perfectly timed, too. 🙂

  14. April says:

    We do tend to get in our own way at times, then there are the outside influences we have to adjust to. Nice post to share this analogy called life. I’m fixin’ to fix my breaks!

  15. inmycorner says:

    I think I kick the tires more than I check my brakes.

  16. niaaeryn says:

    Profound and topical. Good metaphor for today as well. Woot! Off to check brakes *smiles

  17. How interesting and profound this is. And I’m so glad for you to discover that you weren’t just losing your skills!

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