Sunday, October 14, 2012

Riding lessons: The importance of patience and re-framing

After another frantic week at work, I'd hoped to spend a chunk of time this weekend running and riding my new motorcycle. The running went fine. I did a mellow 8k with Husband on Saturday and 16.5k on my own today. The leaves are finally turning colour so there were some lovely views along the river and through Peace Park.  I covered the distance a little more slowly than usual but felt strong throughout - which was encouraging after several weeks of running "blahs".

Riding was another matter. When I hopped on my pretty red Honda Rebel late yesterday morning and attempted to start it, it wouldn't go. After checking switches, fuel, battery, and spark plugs, I finally gave up and spent the evening reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".  I knew the book wouldn't offer a specific solution to my motorcycle woes, but I hoped it would put me in the right frame of mind to tackle them.  It did.  By 6:00 this morning, I'd boned up on motorcycle carburetors and chokes, emailed the woman from whom I'd purchased the bike with a short list of questions and developed a detailed plan for conducting further investigations and getting the bike trailered to the shop for necessary repairs.

Fortunately, all the research and planning was for nought. With the battery juiced up (thanks to my sis' partner, Paul, who had the gear to test and charge it), the bike fired up relatively easily this afternoon and I was able go for an inaugural ride around town.

Me and my bike, just back from our first little jaunt
The experience reminded me of the importance of patience and re-framing when things don't go as planned.

When the bike first failed to start, I couldn't help but feel frustrated and spent a few hours compulsively attempting to fix the problem - forgetting to eat lunch and becoming darned cranky as a result.  Fortunately, Husband recognized the signs and encouraged me to eat something and go for a run. With a bit of fuel and fresh air, I was better able to practice patience and re-frame the situation.

Yes, it was frustrating the bike wouldn't go, but it didn't really matter that it might take another week or two to get it on the road. After all, I'd already been waiting more than three decades, and with luck I'll have many years of riding ahead.

In addition, the delay was an opportunity to learn something about how motorcycles operate, become more familiar with my owner's manual and practice basic maintenance protocols.  As "Zen" points out, bike ownership isn't just about riding. It's about staying in the moment, being attentive and learning new skills as well.

The delay also gave me an excuse to head up to my sister's place when Paul offered to check and charge the battery. While there, I visited with my darling nieces, met their new kittens (Boots and Whiskers), and swapped stories with my sister - a pleasant interlude that lifted my spirits enormously.

Last but not least, my disappointment on Saturday made my first ride this afternoon that much sweeter. With my little machine rumbling beneath me, I was gleeful as a kid at Christmas and could hardly wait to play with my new toy - despite the cool, damp weather.

Of course, since this is primarily a running blog, I have to mention that patience and re-framing come in pretty handy when you're dealing with running issues as well. Too often, we runners are so impatient to run faster or farther that we don't take time to do the problem-solving required to address chronic injuries or limitations. Re-framing can generate the patience we need to step back, figure out what's really happening, and formulate a sound plan for recovery/improvement.

Hmmm.  Sounds like a pretty good approach to life generally, come to think of it.
“The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.” ― Robert M. PirsigZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values


  1. Excellent life lessons here, Janice - I'm trying very hard to be patient and take my running journey one step at a time (looking ahead to 26.2 miles is just a recipe for disaster).

    So glad you got your machine running - and I love that there's a book about Zen and motorcycles!!!

    1. I'm glad if it helps some. It's absolutely true that "one day at a time" is the best way to prepare for a marathon. As you get stronger, you'll be amazed at how strong you get - but no need to think about that yet. Just take it slow and enjoy the ride.