Winning on the uphills, downhills and flats

I’ve been riding my bike a decent amount this summer. I was riding a lot in the spring, training for my first century (100+ mile ride) and in May I rode 104 miles from Beaverton to Pacific City. Since then, I’ve been trying to do at least a 30+ mile ride each weekend. And during all my riding, I kept thinking back to a Seth Godin post from July 2009.

“I look forward to the uphill parts, because that’s where the work is, the fun is, the improvement is. On the uphills, I have a reasonable shot at a gain over last time. The downhills are already maxed out by the laws of physics and safety.”
– from Winning On the Uphills, by Seth Godin

I understand the example he’s trying to make, that improvement is made in the climbing (the difficult parts) not the descents (the easy parts). I’ve even quoted this post a few times at work.

But now that I’ve spent a decent amount of miles in the saddle (I’m still a cycling sissy, but hey), I don’t think the quote is entirely accurate. Yes, you suffer on the climbs, and you increase your fitness and ability the more climbing you do. But there are plenty of improvements you can make on the downhills and flats as well. On the downhills there are things like actually pedaling hard instead of coasting, learning how to corner at higher speeds, feeling comfortable at speed, knowing how to use the brakes… maybe it’s more confidence and control than fitness, but certainly valuable skills to have on the bike. The flats also have something to offer: if I increase my pedal cadence by even a few rotations a minute, it increases my average speed, which increases how long and how far I can ride at a sustained pace. And don’t even get me started about what you can learn from headwinds or riding in a group.

The downhills are only “maxed out by physics and safety” by the professionals of the cycling world. The rest of us have plenty to gain. Everything on the bike is an opportunity for improvement, for gaining knowledge and ability. Just like in business, challenges are a great time for improvement. But when you’re cruising on the downhills of profitability (figuratively of course – not like a descending profitability chart but in the good financial times) there are all sorts of things you can learn from and improve. And as business pushes along the flats, there are opportunities to do that better as well.

Winning doesn’t just happen on the uphills. Winning happens on the entire ride.

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