My son is learning to ride a bike and it has returned me to my first wheeled obsession. He actually learned a couple of years ago but has never really fallen in love with the activity. So I got a bike to be able to ride alongside him and encourage him at speed. Of course I got a full-suspension mountain-basher which is staggering overkill for any ride with him. But I digress.
On a recent ride he was wobbling back and forth more than normal and my wife got concerned. After watching him for a moment I realized he needed advice I normally associate with cars.
Eyes up, and go faster.
When we first started driving for the show I discovered how L.A. commuting had ruined my vision for driving. Trundling along in traffic teaches you to see tail lights and drive the bumper in front of you. The first time I rode with an instructor he couldn’t stop talking about how bad my vision was. I stared right in front of the car, dooming my decisions to last minute inputs. I drove more canyons. I got more instruction. I improved. But, years later, on the Nurburgring, there were still corners where my eyes weren’t far enough down the track. The more I bring my vision up, the smoother and faster I get.
“Look up at your mom,” I told my son as I sent my wife out ahead of us.
He looked up at her in the distance and instantly his inputs smoothed out.
“Now try to catch her,” I said, and watched his slight sway transform into tight balance as he added speed.
The problem is, I didn’t listen.
Days later I charged down a mountain path with the bike suspension thundering away and found myself looking about a bike length ahead of me. I was responding instead of anticipating and had to tell myself, out loud, “eyes up”.
A few corners later I slammed on the brakes and stopped just short of a giant porcupine blocking the path. He had no idea I was coming but I’d seen him from the prior switchback because I was finally looking up.
I smiled as the quilled creature spooked and ambled off the trail. In my mind I heard a friend of mine who has become my biking mentor.
His advice is simple. “The rock you look at, is the rock you hit. Don’t look at the rock.”
He’s right of course. I look at the rocks too much. I suspect we all do.
As is often the case, teaching something to my son comes around and slaps me in the face with a lesson I need. This show has offered some of the most amazing opportunities, experiences, and friendships I’ve ever imagined and yet I can still obsess about 6 frames in the middle of a six minute video (ask our European Correspondent, Tom, about my editorial notes). I focus on where we are right now, or where we aren’t, and not the amazing places we are moving toward. And like my son on his bike, it makes me wobble.
So I have to watch my vision. And I need to help my son see that his body follows his focus. In biking, in driving, and in life.