What do you do when things go flat?

I got a bike trainer for Christmas from my son. It’s a pretty cool gift. A couple of years ago I took up cycling, but the thought of getting out on my bike during the winter weather was not at all appealing to me this year. And, thanks to my new bike trainer all set up in the basement – I don’t have to!

You may know this, but in case you don’t, a bike trainer works by elevating the rear wheel of your bicycle so that it can spin while you cycle in place. (see example below) Your front wheel is contained in a stationary block. You can put some tension on the rear wheel through the trainer. You pick your favorite podcast or music, put your earbuds in, and you are off – in the warm confines of your home on a blustery winter day. So, this is how I’ve been kicking winter to the curb and getting some regular exercise this season. bike on trainerBut, in a “this could only happen to me” moment this week, as I got on my bike and began my work out, something felt wrong. There was some “slippage.” It didn’t sound right and it didn’t feel right. At first I thought I’d simply loosened the tension too much and an easy adjustment would correct the problem. But as I got off to examine the situation, I discovered that I (this could only happen to me) had a flat tire on my indoor bike trainer! Unbelievable! No debris, no road, no contact with anything (remember the rear wheel is elevated) – but undeniably a flat tire.

Still, I reasoned that with the sudden outdoor temperature change, perhaps a barometric phenomenon had occurred, releasing the air from the tire. That or somebody was messing with me. So, I got out the tire pump and added air. Surely that would do the trick. Not ten minutes later the tire was flat again.

It was at this point in time that I had a decision to make. Part of me wanted to bag the workout, shake my head and whine to whoever would listen, “I got a flat tire on my bike trainer! Can you believe it? Something like that would only happen to me!” I gave this choice considerable thought. But then, I did something else. I decided this very unexpected and unlikely situation presented an opportunity. I decided to adapt to the situation and take a different course of action.

You see when I got serious about cycling (serious as in taking rides several miles from home) I decided to carry a kit with me in the event I needed to fix a flat tire. Spare inner tube, patch, tire levers, and portable pump. But, in all the time I’ve carried that kit, I have not had a flat tire (knock on wood). No flats on the county roads, the people trail, the city streets – even when I’ve run over the occasional debris or trash. No, did I tell you this? My flat tire happened in my basement while my tire was elevated, spinning freely on my bike trainer! Go figure. But what a better time and place to learn how to change out an inner tube and use my kit than in the warm confines of my comfortable basement on this night when the wind is howling and temperature is well below freezing. It certainly beats trying to figure it out ten miles from home in the rain, or on a 95 degree summer day. So – that’s what I did. And, several minutes later, I got back on the bike and finished my workout.

You ever have one of those “something like this could only happen to me” encounters? I suspect they occur more than we admit. In leadership theory, those types of situations present us with the option – give up or learn. Quit or adapt.

It takes some effort to be able to retrain your thinking, and control your initial impulse to just throw up your hands. But, if you will, you might be surprised at how an unexpected challenge can grow into a teachable moment. That’s what happened to me when I got a flat tire on my bike trainer! Let’s keep learning.

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Filed under Cycling, Leadership, Uncategorized

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