Finding the Next Higher Gear

That’s when I noticed my habit of shifting to a lower gear as the trail gets steeper ahead…


If you haven’t tried mountain biking, you don’t know what you’re missing.  It combines many of the best things in life:

Being outdoors, hard work, freedom, speed, some risk, and fun.

Like many sports, it’s also a great way to find your limits, and extend them a bit.

Mountain bike trails are either climbing or descending.  They may be smooth, rough, tight, rocky, rutted, or any combination of these.

Steep downhills have always scared me.  Way too fast for my taste.  That impossible battle with gravity, choosing the safest line, avoiding rocks, and leaning far enough back to avoid being pitched over the handlebars, make most steep downhills a game of survival for me.  Definitely outside my comfort zone.

I prefer climbing.  Give me a long, steep climb and I’m happy.  Tired, but happy.  Sure, gravity’s against me, but it’s not trying to throw me over the handlebars, or off the mountain side.  I get to focus on my pedaling rhythm, staying within myself, and seeing how fast I can climb the next steep hill.  It puts my mind in a quiet place.

Until someone goes around, gives a wave, and climbs out of sight!  He may be half my age, but that’s no excuse.  He’s found a way to put both himself and his bike in the next higher gear (or maybe a few higher gears).

That’s when I noticed my habit of shifting to a lower gear as the trail gets steeper ahead.  I haven’t reached the steeper section, and yet I’m already downshifting.  One could call this good preparation.

Or, fear.  Fear of being caught off-guard by the steeper trail.  Fear of actually finding my limits.  Fear that I can’t handle the next higher gear.  Fear that I’ll blow-up and have to stop, gasping for air.

Napolean Hill was right when he said, “the only limitation is that which one sets up in one’s own mind.”

As I watched that guy climb out of sight, I decided to experiment with the next higher gear.  Catching him wasn’t my goal.  That wasn’t going to happen.  Finding my limit became my new goal.  Whenever my habit said I should downshift, I purposely clicked to the next higher gear and left it there.  Suffice it to say, I found my limit a few times.

More often than not, I merely climbed faster, and clicked to even higher gears.

Since I was climbing, I had time to think.  The question that kept rolling around my head was whether I have the same habit of preemptively downshifting in other areas of my life.

Time to find out.



Photo Credit


Author: Bob Dailey

Born and raised in Southern California. Graduated from (and met my future wife at) Cal Poly Pomona, in 1988. Married to Janet for almost 35 years. Father of two: Julianne and Jennifer. Grandfather of 7. Held many positions in small, medium, and large companies. Trail runner, competitive stair climber, backpacker, camper, off-roader, world traveler, sometimes writer.

2 thoughts on “Finding the Next Higher Gear”

  1. Very good and I look forward to hearing what you find out. I enjoy mountain biking too. I am lucky to have many trail heads just minutes from my house in Castle Rock CO. I don’t think I enjoy the climb as much as you do but I may have to look at it from your point of view when I take to a trail again this Spring.

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