Psychology - Cycology

On recent rides I have been pondering some of the psychology of cycling (cycology??).

I mostly ride with groups, sometimes just two or three of us, but on Monday I rode with 10. I have been thinking about the psychology of being at the back, or the front, or the middle of the group. Often I am at the back of the group of riders because I ride with stronger cyclists and I am much slower uphill. I tend to do fine on flats and downhills but the uphills, since I am on a recumbent, bring me back to the back.

I want to emphasize that I love riding, and that I am actually pretty relaxed by now about all these issues. I would say that "happy to be riding" is my experience about 99% of the time by now ... however, the not-so-relaxed feelings come and go, and here they are for all to analyze!

Here are some of the feelings I experience at the back

  1. fine: happy to blame the bike, happy to be relaxed, happy to be riding
  2. guilt: don't want to hold the others back
  3. frustration: wish my legs were stronger
  4. happy: no-one behind me to crash into me as I slow down up hill
  5. worry: am I lost? did I miss a turn-off?

When I am next to last, I feel

  1. happy: at least I am not last
  2. concerned: does the person behind me feel bad for being last? do they expect me to wait for them or do they prefer I don't wait for them? do I need to wait at the next turn-off so they don't get lost?
  3. worried: will the person behind me crash into me as I slow down on an up hill?
  4. frustrated: wish my legs were stronger (then I would be further up in the rankings)
  5. happy: happy to be riding

When I am up at the front, I feel

  1. happy: wahoo! I am at the front!
  2. uh oh: will they pass me on an up-hill?
  3. worried: am I lost? did I miss a turn?
  4. pressured: am I holding them back?
  5. happy: happy to be riding

All activities come with feelings; those are some of mine. I would love to hear yours.

One last thing ... why not join the Hazon NY Jewish Environmental Bike Ride on Labor Day weekend (and you don't have to be Jewish to join us - we always have a group of Muslim, Christian, Atheist and others). Register before Sunday and get a $50 discount on registration fees with the code "bikemonth". With short and long route options, this is a great event for anyone looking for a great retreat weekend, a diverse and optimistic weekend community and a rewarding physical challenge.

I am happy to answer questions (leave a comment), and there is a great network of cyclists of various abilities in NYC and also here in Boston with whom you can connect for riding partners during the summer as you train up. Prices go up after Sunday, so this is the weekend to register!


As I tweeted last month: Inverse Law of Usenet Bandwidth: The more interesting your life becomes, the less you post... and vice versa. Jorn Barger, 1994.

Usenet was pretty early version of what is now the web 2.0 world of user generated content. Today's simple corollary is: The more interesting your life becomes, the less you post [on blogs]... and vice versa. This leads to wondering whether the incentive (or reward) for blogging is gratification in boring moments...

There is a question about whether Twittering follows the same pattern. Many folks note that it is so easy to tweet that interesting lives lead to more tweeting. That is for another post.

This blog has been silent for over a week exactly because I have been busy on interesting things, mostly work related, mostly our just completed annual advisory committee meeting. I considered live-tweeting the event for about one nanosecond (talk about a breach of etiquette and career-ending adventure). An example tweet might have been "Partner X now telling LPs that deal Y is going to be worth $1b", and another example would be "Partner X now telling LPs that deal Y better show progress before June 30 or it will be shut down". Last night's dinner tweets would have been interesting too, but I can't even hint at those. You can see why the public twitterstream is not ideal for this kind of commentary!

I did want to mention a couple of interesting articles I gleaned from the twittersphere recently. One talks about the very obvious (to me) comment that even *free* will not get physicians to adopt electronic medical records - see this short post on e-patients. Secondly with an eye to my non-profit volunteer work, consider this WSJ blog post on how increasing the price of membership can increase memberships. In both cases the incentive structure is non-intuitive, or at least against the classical or conventional wisdom.

Incentive compensation (bonus plans) are amongst the most complicated parts of my life as a board member on startups. CEOs and their VPs generally have bonus plans approved by the board (or its compensation committee). It is a cliche that "you get what you pay for" and we have to be excruciatingly careful not to encourage unhelpful outcomes through an inadvertent side-effect of a bonus plan. If we offer a bonus for maintaining a healthy cash balance, the CEO might fire a bunch of people and reduce sales or service levels. If we focus on revenue we may encourage profligate spending and reduce our cash cushion. It gets worse from there. Even the seeming alignment around incentive stock options can lead to problems, and not just those seen on Wall Street.

Incentives in all these areas remain intriguing and annoying because they seem to amplify unexpected behavior as much as desired behavior. Despite the concerns and contradictions, or perhaps because of them, they remain a source of constant interest for me in my venture capital (and venture cyclist) work.