Project242 (P242) is my journey to bike 242 miles in 24 hours, across the state of Minnesota on gravel roads, in August, 2021 (the Day Across MN, or the DAMN). I’ve found many lessons experienced riding a bike can be applied to our careers. In these posts, I will share the correlations.
We just got done climbing a hill that was 1.5 miles long with a max gradient of 24 degrees. It was ugly. Really ugly. To have this climb at mile 55 of our 80 mile race was tough. Of the 6,200+ feet of elevation gain riders would experience that day, this was the biggest climb.
I caught up with two other bikers going through the same struggle as I was. As we crested the top, we felt accomplished. Cheers went up! We’d done it. But just when we thought the worst was behind us, another problem hit is right in our faces; Headwinds!
Now, a little bit of wind is OK. However, this wind was cooking along at 15-20 mph, bringing our pace from slow to slower. That’s when I said “I’ll take front.”
A “Peloton” is a group of riders that draft off each other to save energy and reduce drag (yes, it’s also an exercise bike by the same name). When the front rider gets tired or stays out front for a certain period of time, they point, move to the side, and let the next person take lead as they slip to the back. This keeps one rider out front doing the hardest work, and the riders behind to regain energy before it’s their turn again.
Our little three person group kept this up for 13+ miles, helping “pull” each other along by moving faster and saving energy. After that, the wind shifted to our backs and we agreed to move at our own pace from there to the finish. As I finished before the others, I waited for the other two riders to congratulate them on a job well done. We grabbed our half a banana, free beer, and toasted success!
If you’ve ever seen the Tour de France or any other bike race, you may see riders so close to each other’s wheels, a pen wouldn’t fit between their tires. That’s a peloton. The peloton is as much about racing as it is working as a team. Everyone has their chance out front, bearing the brunt of the wind/air pressure, allowing team members to recover so they can take their turn in the lead. When done well, it looks like a well-oiled machine. Here are some areas that cycling in a group or peloton and working together can teach us about business.
Encourage others to stay strong and keep going. Some days suck. They’re tough and you will feel like quitting. But because we’re together, we can encourage each other to keep going. A simple “You’re doing a great job!” can go a long way.
Keeping focused under pressure. Just because you’re not out front in the Peloton, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Being a couple inches from the tire in front of you, and knowing someone is that close behind, puts pressure and stress on a person. Same goes for your projects and issues that come up. Everyone knows there’s pressure to complete work or get things resolved, even if you’re not the leader. Being focused can help get it done faster and more efficiently.
Find ways to have a little fun and laugh. I laughed when the person in front of me started singing “Country Road” by John Denver (we were on gravel in the middle of the Badlands). I started to sing along, as did the other person. Work doesn’t mean we’re robots doing specific tasks and go home. We build relationships, laugh, and have some fun.
Trust one another. When I was out front, I was looking up and out. I knew the person behind me was looking down at my tire. I would see issues ahead. They would not. We frequently communicated with each other; the lead biker yelling upcoming obstacles or issues with the road ahead. That way, those behind would know to look out and be careful. It didn’t take long for us to trust one another because we knew the other people were looking out for everyone.
More resilient and accountable together. Mentally, I was ready for the long game on race day. But together in our group, I felt more resilient because I was accountable to those who were with me. I needed to be there for my team, even if we didn’t know each other’s names yet!
It’s OK to move at a different pace. With the wind at my back, I was ready to ride faster than my two teammates. They weren’t upset I was leaving them and we wished each other luck. In our careers, people in our teams will move at different speeds and some will need to take off for other opportunities. That faster person may be you.
Riding together in a group can teach you a lot. By taking turns being out front, we can learn to take the brunt of the force so our team members can recoup before they take the lead. Trust and comradery is built, and ultimately we all push to the finish line. Whether in biking or business, take turns being out front and help your team!