The 3-Speed Bike

Posted by jlubans on July 30, 2018

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Caption: My Raleigh was silver gray.

Many years ago, I had a 3-speed bike. You know, low, middle and high. I pedaled to work and back, rain or shine, and used it on campus as part of my job as a branch manager.
While a 3-speeder in the Rocky Mountains town of Boulder, Colorado was not up to mountain bike standards, it got me where I needed to be and even up some of the in-town foothills.
The wind in my face was hardly a friend – rather like a large invisible fist impeding my progress.
On my back, the wind was my BFF. I’d spread out my arms and the wind would hurtle me home, pell mell.
Now, years later in Salem, Oregon, I have a gee-whiz new 24-speed bike.
My favorite trail is more flat than not; It’s a forested flood plain island in the Willamette River.
There are a few elevations where I gear down, enough to reduce my pedaling effort.
Of the 24 options, I probably use 8; there’s no need for more. That’s hardly unique in this technologically over-enhanced age; like my dishwasher with its "top rack only" setting, my bike has unused features.
I have to ask, like with so much of technology, do we really need all the “enhancements”?
Or, do the improvements just complicate life? As I type this on my Mac Book, I know there are dozens of unused applications just waiting to be released like so many geniis in bottles.
Siri, a Pandora wallflower in my side bar, must be disconsolate. I have yet to ask her for the meaning of life.
But, back to my now using more than double the speeds I had in Colorado.
Is life better?
Maybe. I can peddle more easily when confronting gravity, when my aching legs signal my brain to let up. Do I get to where I want to be? Yes. But, if “life is a journey, not a destination” how am I doing?
In the lowest gear, my pedals move rapidly but my wheels advance very little, inches instead of meters. Am I making progress standing in place?
Of a sort.
With 3 speeds, I’d have to work harder, maybe even build up a sweat, but I’d be moving at a more rapid pace and further along.
With 24 speeds, my planning ahead is different. In the old days, downhill, I’d peddle furiously to get a big boost uphill; now I just click and click and click until I make it to the top of the hill, inching along.
Is it better to work hard and get the job done, or can we maximize technology and minimize personal effort?
It is illusionary to think there’s no difference in the quality of my old ride to the new one. No question, I put out more personal effort on the 3-speed and I had a greater sense of accomplishment than when I click through 8 gears.
Are there comparables in the workplace? When in the face of resistance, do we gear down or up?
Do you give in to gravity’s pull (the workplace’s inertia) or do you ratchet up your efforts and push through?
Do you use all 24 gears – all of bureaucracy’s tools - to wend your careful way through the office or do you limit yourself to 3-speeds and seek daily progress?
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© Copyright John Lubans 2018

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