A few weeks ago, I learned that mountain biking is like retirement. Today, I tell the story.
Riding Into The Mountains
On Memorial Day weekend, a Brazilian, American & Frenchman rode into the North Georgia mountains. On mountain bikes. The American, was me. The Brazilian and Frenchman are co-workers of mine, both currently in the process of relocating to the USA and living the “Expat Bachelor Life” while awaiting the arrival of their families. Rather than have them spend a holiday weekend alone in their apartments, my wife and I invited them up to our North Georgia mountain cabin for a special weekend.
On Friday night, my wife and I enjoyed a fantastic cookout and meal on the back deck with our new friends, while learning a bit about life in other countries and the challenges faced in international relocations. The dinner conversation was lively, and a unique opportunity to discuss “life issues” through the eyes of individuals who had been raised on 3 different continents, 3 different cultures. Lovely stuff, this!
The following morning, we headed to a local bike shop to pick up three mountain bikes we’d reserved for the day. The expedition begins!!
How Mountain Biking Is Like Retirement
Thinking back on the biking expedition, I realized the many similarities between our ride on the bikes, and our ride toward retirement. The story of our ride, then, will be told as an analogy for retirement planning, in the approximate sequence of our biking expedition.Here are 10 Ways That Mountain Biking Is Like Retirement Click To Tweet
1. Planning Is Required:
For our mountain biking expedition, we had to do some planning. Schedules were compared, a date agreed, bikes were reserved, maps were studied, logistics coordinated, food purchased and prepared. I made a few phone calls to the bike shop to discuss rental options. They were wonderful, and I encourage any of you interested in mountain biking in the North Georgia mountains contact the Cartecay River Bike Shop in Ellijay, GA.
Likewise, retirement requires planning. One of the primary goals of this blog is to help you as you develop your plan for retirement. Achieving A Great Retirement (my byline) requires a plan. Run some retirement calculators, track your spending, track your net worth, define your purpose.These should all be a part of a well thought out retirement plan.
2. It’s More Fun With Others
Man was made for relationships. It’s true if you’re mountain biking, and it’s true if you’re retired. When we got to the bike shop, the owner asked where we were planning to ride. “Bear Creek”, we replied. Ironically, he mentioned that they had an organized ride that was also going to Bear Creek, and they were leaving in 10 minutes. “Count us in!!”, we said, and happily joined 5 “experienced” riders for our trip. We no longer had to worry about directions to the trail, and we no longer had to navigate alone through the woods! The other 5 riders were GREAT, and made the trip truly enjoyable! The “ride leader” even brought his dog, who ran with us the entire trip (see the dog’s picture in the “featured image” at the top of this post).
Likewise, retirement is more fun with others. Find the time, in your last few working years, to develop relationships outside the workplace. When I’m at our North Georgia cabin for the weekends, my wife and I are intentional about finding ways to get involved in our new community. We joke that “we’re retired now, but only on the weekends”. We’re seriously viewing this transtion time as a way to “test retirement living” while still working, and that’s a big focus during our weekends. We’ve volunteered for a local dog rescue charity, we’ve visited some churchs, and we’ve attended several events in town (taking the time to talk to “locals”). Relationships matter, be intentional about building them.
3. You’ve Got To Have The Right Tools For The Job
You can’t reach the top of Bear Creek without a mountain bike. The trail was tough. Fortunately, we rented very good mountain bikes, with very low “granny gears” to help us climb the steep mountain trails. We had spare tires, water, air pumps, cell phones and maps. We wore helmets to avoid “worst case” scenarios, and modern materials to wick away the sweat. All of those tools contributed to a great experience.
Similarly, you shouldn’t attempt retirement without the right tools for the job. Just as you used retirement calculators for planning, you should use them to monitor your progress as you move through retirement. Continue to track your spending and your net worth as you move along the trail of retirement. If necessary, hire a financial planner to insure your money lasts as long as you do. Using the right tools in retirement will contribute to a great experience.
4. Sometimes You Have To Take A Break
The first two hours of our ride was uphill. The. Entire. Way.
Similarly, to save for retirement, you need to save. The. Entire. Way.
Sometimes, you just need a break. You can’t consistently ride uphill for two straight hours. You can’t consistently save for 30+ years. Sometimes you need to get off the bike and drink some water. Sometimes you need to buy that car (Don’t Buy It New! Let some other sucker bear the burden of steep depreciation in the first few years of a car’s life!). Keep the focus on working your way consistently “uphill”, but recognize there may be times you need to take a break. Keep the breaks short, and maintain your focus on consistent savings.
5. Sometimes You Fall
There were some technical areas on our ride, and my Brazilian friend happened to take a fall. One of our “experienced” riders was nearby, and helped him get himself back on track after he fell. The fall was relatively minor, but the dripping blood made him look tough for the rest of our journey. As I mentioned, we had taken preparations, and all wore helmets. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best!
Similarly, it’s impossible to predict all of the variables that will unfold in our retirement. Spend some time preparing for the worst, while hoping for the best. Be prepared to reduce your spending in the event of lower than expected returns, or higher than expected inflation. Consider long term care insurance. Take time to exercise, and keep yourself healthy.
A friend of mine has struggled in retirement. He’s gotten back on the bike, and with the help of friends he’s making good progress on his difficult trail. Foster friendships, and look for opportunities to help others who have fallen.
6. You Have To Anticipate The Future
In mountain biking, you have to look to where you’re going, and anticipate the future. You see some roots or rocks ahead on the trail, and you may choose to lift yourself off the saddle to absorb the bumps with your legs (less painful than the alternative).
In retirement planning, you need to think about what life will be like after retirement, and begin developing post-retirement activities and interests while you’re still working.
The mountain bike trip was, to me, a bit of “post retirement activity planning”. I put up the following post of Facebook after our ride, and it’s a good example of how I’m trying to use my “weekends in the mountains” now, to begin developing post-retirement activities for when I’m retired full time at the cabin:
7. Hard Work Pays Off
The view from the top was spectacular. After 2 hours of significant cardio effort, we broke out of the woods and onto a clearing at the top of the mountain. We had a 270 degree view of mountains, and could see for miles. I’ll never forget that view, and the wonderful time we had relaxing at the top after our hard work. Without the hard work, we never would have experienced that view. Because of the hard word, the view was even more rewarding.
Without hard work during your “employed years”, you’ll struggle to enjoy the view in retirement. Make the hard effort to save what needs to be saved. Live below your means, and do it for a long time. Spend some time learning about personal finance. Be especially careful with life’s “Major Expenses” (cars, homes). The hard work will pay off when you hit the clearing at the top of the mountain. Push on with the hard work now, so you can relax and enjoy the view after you retire. Because of the hard work, the view will be even more rewarding.
8. The Best Part is AFTER The Climb
While we all enjoyed the entire mountain biking ride, I think all would agree that the best part was the ride down the mountain. It was an adreneline rush the entire way down, with the forest flashing by as we hurled down the steep mountain trail. I felt like I was flying, and smiled for 30 straight minutes as gravity made the downhill journey an entirely different experience than the hard work endured on the way up.
Similarly, many folks report that retirement is one of the best periods in life. Prepare now to insure you get the maximum enjoyment out of your retirement, then be intentional about enjoying your post-working years. Find something to “Run To” in your retirement years, instead of simply “Running Away” from work.
9. Take Time To Enjoy The Moment
On our way back down the mountain, the Brazilian and I were riding together when we came to a stream crossing, one of many on the ride. My Brazilian friend dismounted, and splashed some cool mountain water onto his face. Before I knew it, he was removing his shoes and shirt, and proceeded to climb into the stream. “This looks too nice to not take advantage of the opportunity”, he said, as he laid back in the stream and enjoyed the refreshing water after the long days’ ride. It turned out that we never crossed the creek again, and the Brazilian had chosen the last opportunity to have his experience in the refreshing water.
Similarly, in life, we should all be aware of the importance of enjoying as many opportunities as possible while we’re moving through life. Don’t spend all of your time preparing for the future, and don’t let opportunities pass you by. You may never cross that creek again. Avoid the regret of being an 85-year old, sitting in front of the TV with your spouse, and thinking back on all the things you’d wished you’d done while you still had the chance.
10. Carve Out “Me” Time
My wife was wonderful about having the guests come to our cabin, and having me run off to do something “with the guys” during our valuable weekend time in the mountains. Now that I’m “in the city” during week days, we really do value our weekend time together, and she was very understanding in having me disappear for a good part of one of our Saturdays. We had discussed why I wanted to do the ride, and how I thought it was a nice opportunity to have my friends get out of the city for a weekend and experience a bit of the North Georgia mountain lifestyle.
Similarly, in retirement, it’s important that husbands and wives talk through their expectations for time together, and time apart. Both are important, and both should be pursued. I plan on doing more fly fishing when I retire, and I’ll likely start riding mountain bikes on a regular basis. I’ll also need quiet time to focus on writing this blog. Similarly, she’ll pursue some interests that appeal to her. We’ll also have many activities that we do together. Getting that balance correct is an important piece of the transition into retirement, and it shouldn’t be left to chance. Communicate, plan and support each other.
Looking back, it’s interesting to see the number of analogies between our mountain biking expedition and the process of preparing for retirement. Follow the 10 steps above as you plan for, and live in, your own retirement. Planning, communicating, and being intentional in your efforts are all important steps in Achieving A Great Retirement.
Enjoy the journey.