BY: ANNA KOPP
It wasn’t supposed to become a passion, that was kind of a welcomed side effect.
It was time for a new bike after 8 years on my BMW ST800, which had served me well on curvy alpine roads. My husband rode a GSA 1200, and when I saw the GS 800 in Kalamata Olive green, I was sold. Heck, test ride? Who cares? It looked GOOD. (Okay, I did a test ride.) It rode well, too! Slam dunk.
So now that I had an off-road bike, my husband said we should do some gravel riding. Maybe even a training in Hechlingen at the BMW Off-road Park to learn some skills. Or do an off-road day in Sardinia on a biking holiday, go to Morocco for a week enduro riding in the mountains, or South Africa for 2 weeks of enduro riding.
Suddenly, I had 3 trainings in Hechlingen, 3 trainings with Simon Paveys off-road skills in Wales, and several trips ticked off my “been there, done that” list (and earned a few T-shirts too!), culminating in being talked into the GS Trophy qualifications in Germany this year. That didn’t go brilliantly well, a reality check on my skill set and resolve to not cry over broken finger nails, and maybe also not crash my bike again. Twice. That’s another story.
I have learned a lot about myself and about life from riding off-road. This kind of riding has a lot in common with life undertakings, projects, business, even marriage!
My Three Insights.
Insight 1 –
When I did my first off-road course in Wales, the burning thought after a few hours riding was, “What have I gotten myself into?” paired with, “Whoa! Whoosh! Cool! I can do this!”. We learned that it is really important to not talk down to yourself in your head. If you say “I can’t, I can’t”, well then, you can’t. I still do that, even knowing I can, so there is a continuous internal struggle going on of feeding the right dog. You can. Say you can. Isn’t that a lot like life? Women are capable of a lot more than they think, but we are very good at telling ourselves we can’t do it, or that we are surely not good enough. So I try the mantra, “I can do this”, when the road gets tricky, both on and off bike, on and off road.
Insight 2 –
The second thing I learned is that you have to keep your eyes looking where you want to end up. River crossings, steep hills, up as well as down, look where you want to end up. Don’t look in front of your wheel at the small obstacles. If there is one stone in the road, if you look at it, you hit it. Guaranteed. You keep your eyes on the goal, on the horizon and you Ba-bump-Ba-bump over rock and log and let the bike do the work. This is easier said than done, so my second mantra is, “Look where you want to go.”
If you don’t, you slow down, over think, and, in the end, get stuck or fall over. Or both. It is the same in life. We get stuck on the little problems. We lose sight of the goal we set, and get stuck or fall over. Or both. Especially in business, I have often seen the parallels in how projects stall, discussions go in circles, and sights on the target zoom in on the milestone obstacles. But planning a wedding, building a house, any life project has the potential to stall if you don’t Ba-Bump it regularly.
Insight 3 –
The third and most important insight for me was that you don’t need to be the best all the time. You do your best, and should be proud of your achievements.
I only used to do things that I was good at. I was scared to make a fool of myself if I tried something that I didn’t have a natural talent for and hadn’t mastered within, say, seconds? But learning this way was fun. I fell, got back up, dusted off my shoulders, and put on my ‘as-if-I-care’ cat look. Cat people know which look I mean. The look you get when you have been out on a motorbike adventure trip for weeks and get home, only to have your cat give you the ‘didn’t-even-notice-you-were-gone’ casual glance.
A good fall is also a good story to tell, and only when you go over your limits do you learn or die trying. That hasn’t happened yet, though! What counts is how you deal with it.
If you quit, you are a quitter. If you can’t handle not being perfect and quit, you are a sore loser. I still wish I was perfect and knew it all. But that’s not gonna happen. I have great memories of adventures and beautiful photos of foreign countries of me looking darn cool in bike gear, and that is what counts at the end of life. See the second insight!
A life lesson learned is to Ba-bump-Ba-bump through, look where you want to be at the end of the day, year, fiscal quarter, life. If you fall, get up and tell a joke. And never forget, YOU CAN.