TEDxMileHigh – Allen Lim – Life with Bikes

TEDxMileHigh – Allen Lim – Life with Bikes


Translator: Alina Siluyanova
Reviewer: Denise RQ Now, this suitcase
is a little security blanket, I take it everywhere I go. I’m planning a little trip
after this little speech. You know, like many people, I remember
the first time that I ever rode a bicycle. I mean, really rode a bicycle. On my own, totally unassisted. Sure, I’d been given lessons before. You know, the awkward kind
of push and release on a grass field? But those rides
always seem to fall a little short. When I was about four-five years old,
I decided to take matters in my own hands, and I found this
slightly downhill driveway, and I actually learned how to balance by coasting with my feet
slightly off to the side on this pink-tasseled beauty
that I called “Snow White”. (Laughter) It was a solid evening of coasting before
I decided to put pressure on the pedals, and when I did, it was magic. Total freedom. (Laughter) Later that night, I went back home,
and I told my parents that I had taught myself
how to ride a bicycle. And I don’t think
that they really believed me. It was either that or they just had other
more important things on their mind. For them, and I think for a lot of people, riding a bicycle will always remain
just a trivial part of childhood, kind of like screaming
for no reason or playing tag. But for me, it was a total epiphany. So as a latchkey kid with immigrant
parents trying to struggle, to survive, a bicycle became my nurture,
became my tool of discovery. When I was in elementary school,
I would literally disappear for hours riding my bike through some, I guarantee,
very interesting parts of Los Angeles. By the time I was in junior high, I was given this yellow
Schwinn Varsity 10-speed bicycle, and I learned how to shift,
and I learned how to change a tube. And then me, my brother, and my cousins actually rode our bikes from Los Angeles
all the way down to San Diego. I think I was, like,
13 years old or something. From that point on,
I rode my bike almost every single day, I was totally obsessed,
I’d fallen in love. Today, my job, my title, whatever, I am the Director
of Sports, Science and Technology for the RadioShack
Professional Cycling Team. I’ve got my PhD
at the University of Colorado learning everything I could about sorority girls
and elite human performance. (Laughter) I’ve coached countless riders
all over the world to national titles, and world titles,
and Olympic medals, and professional wins. I’ve ridden with a presidential candidate, and I’ve even ridden
with the guy who beat him. (Laughter) I’ve even had
the really unique experience, – say, very unique experience – of working with both Floyd Landis
and with Lance Armstrong, two of only three Americans
to have ever won the Tour de France. People tell me that I have the dream job,
and I agree, I have my dream job. I am very thankful and very grateful. Ever since watching Greg LeMond
won the 1986 Tour de France with this guy John Tesh
playing piano in the background (Laughter) – I don’t know if you remember that – I’ve been totally enamored by the Tour. I’ve always dreamt about being
a part of the Tour de France. I’ve idealized the Tour
ever since I was a kid, and I still do today. In fact, I’ve built
my whole entire professional career around the Tour de France,
around that dream, because it was the only thing big enough
I could find to legitimize my passion. Here is the deal: when you’re a kid,
and you’re riding your bicycle everywhere, and you go get comic books,
and chewing gum, et cetera, that’s a normal part of childhood play,
that’s a normal part of being a child. But the Tour de France, being a part
of that race, that’s what adults do, that’s a career, that’s special, that’s a great way of showing
how ambitious you are. But here is the problem: ambition
is a very easy thing to hide behind until one day you realize
it’s all you have, until that childhood bicycle starts to
become this fuzzy memory in your head, and you start to ask yourself
what happened. Because here is the reality:
ever since my first Tour de France, I really actually
haven’t ridden my bike at all. Instead, I’ve traded my bike in
for this suitcase, and this suitcase is a powerful excuse. It represents my world now,
it represents endless days on the road, and it represents being stuck
on the tournament for hours at a time. This picture here that you see,
I took literally in a panic attack, three hours sitting on the tarmac
during a snowstorm at DIA. The suitcase also represents
a lot of sleep on the bus. You get up whenever you can. It represents that endless pursuit
for the next win, which is my job now, it’s my responsibility, it’s my dream,
because right now I’m an adult. This suitcase, for the people who know me,
this suitcase is always packed. I’m always ready to go,
to suffer, to endure, to sacrifice, just like the riders that I coach. And, yes, I find it really ironic, I find it ironic that my work
in professional cycling actually keeps me from riding. But you know, if you think about it, I think about it all the time,
it’s actually a pretty small thing, because like most of us
chasing their dream, I’ve forsaken a lot more:
I’ve forsaken relationships, and my health, and plenty
of happiness pursuing the dream. So I find it kind of strange,
a little awkward, maybe unfair for me to get up here on this stage and talk
to you about the benefits of cycling which was my original intent, when I can’t even really figure
a way to do it myself. And, yes, they tell me there are benefits,
and I actually did a bunch of research, and I put together all these facts
and figures together, and I was going to wow you guys with what Von Huth Smith et Al. said,
and what Woodcock et Al. said, but I think it comes down
to a couple of points, and these are real points. Point number one:
you are just going to live longer if you ride a bicycle
instead of driving a car. There is plenty of evidence for that. Point number two: driving sucks. (Laughter) Right? (Cheers) (Applause) An hour a day in your car corresponds with a 6% increase
in the likelihood of being obese. A person driving in a car
breathes 60% more carbon monoxide compared to somebody who has got a ventilation rate
two to three times of that riding in traffic. And, you know, the bottom line is: I’ve never seen somebody
happy driving a car. (Laughter) The next point is
we’re lazy guys, we’re really lazy. Did you know that only 25%
of the time we spend in our cars is actually [spent on the 14 mile
average US commute] whereas 50% of the time
that we spend in our cars are for trips of three miles or less? Three miles or less.
That’s how we spend our time. My last point is
that not riding is expensive. If we shifted from riding our bikes– shifted to riding our bikes
instead of driving our cars, the amount that we would save
in terms of social infrastructure would be about 50 cents per mile. Oregon saves about
two billion dollars per year because they ride more
than the rest of the country. Annual cost of being obese is about [5,000 dollars] for a woman,
[3,000 dollars] for a man. Every pound that we increase
the average weight of an American, we increase fuel consumption
by 40 million gallons. Last year we wasted
like a billion gallons of gasoline; a billion gallons of gasoline
because we’re too heavy. We spend a lot on the transportation, too. 8,000 dollars to maintain your car,
300 dollars to ride your bicycle. Maybe that’s why a company
like Health Insurance Company Humana is investing
in the Denver B-cycle program. Maybe it’s gotten to a point
where actually investing in prevention is financially smarter
than chronic illness. (Applause) But I’ll stop here. We’ve heard so many facts
and figures tonight, and in my mind,
knowing doesn’t always help. As much as I loved to ride a bicycle, I’ve got my career,
and it’s my one shot to make it. And I’ve got this baggage now. And I’ve crafted this entire lifestyle, and it’s a lifestyle, and it won’t let go. Or maybe, I won’t let go. My job is to try to help people
be the best that they can, to push the boundaries
of human possibility. People are always asking me,
“Allen, what’s the secret? What’s the magic sauce, whatever?” They’re always asking me about training,
and nutrition, and latest innovation, but do you know what the truth is? The truth is there are no shortcuts. When Fausto Coppi, the great Italian cyclist who’d won
the 1949 and 1952 Tour de France was asked, “How to be a champion?”, his response was very simple, he said,
“Just ride, just ride, just ride.” It was something that I remembered
the last year Tour de France: Lance, on stage 8, in the city of Morzine,
suffered this devastating crash. And I knew at that point
this race was totally over, we weren’t going to win
his eighth Tour de France, and it’d been an obsession
up to that whole entire point, and in a second it was just gone. And knowing that and watching Lance struggling to get back on his bicycle
to finish that stage, the only thing that I could think of
were the words of Coppi, “Just ride, just ride, just ride.” And out of that mantra, what I realized was that all I wanted
to do was to just ride. And so I sat down one day trying
to figure out how to make that happen, trying to figure out how to take down
all of the barriers in my life that prevented me from riding, and the really crazy thing
is that just in that process my life started to get better
and I hadn’t even got on the bicycle yet; just having that simple goal
of wanting to just ride. And so, what I am really here
to tell you guys tonight is to just ride. Better yet, I challenge
each of you not to just ride but to reignite whatever passion
lays dormant within you because it’s in there. Forget about what Yoda said too,
this is not do or die, it’s not like you’re trying to levitate some X-wing fighter out of a marsh
using only the Force. (Laughter) All I’m asking you to do is to try. Put a little sliver in there and try (Laughter) (Applause) because I know that even
if you never get on a bicycle, the problems that you will solve
in your own life by trying will be much bigger than the ride itself. Like most great goals in life, it’s really not about
the winning and the loosing, it’s about the journey, it’s about
the open road that lies ahead of us. So just ride, just ride, just ride. Because if it was
a good idea when we were kids, then maybe, just maybe,
it’s a better idea now that we’re adults. So, I’m going to make all of you
a promise: next year I’m going to try, I’m going to take my excuse,
I’m going to take my baggage, and I’m going to try to create a solution. And in the spirit of all things American– – Hold on a second. Hold on, it’s a big solution. – In the spirit of all things American, my solution, you got it,
it’s a bigger suitcase. (Laughter) And I’m going to take this suitcase,
I’m going to open this thing up. Hopefully, I’ll find a good answer, but you never know,
I could be really crazy like they said. Yeah, the answer was yes. And I’m going to pull out of this suitcase
all of my love, my sweet little precious (Laughter) and all of my fear – this is actually scary doing this
in front of all of you, guys – and all of my trouble, and all of my joy (Laughter) (Applause) and I’m going to build myself one answer. I’m going to try to ride my bike
as much as possible, and this doesn’t mean that I’m going to quit my job,
or leave my baggage behind. In fact, I’m definitely taking it with me. (Laughter) I always do. It goes with me everywhere. And when people ask me where I’m going, I’ll probably tell them
what I always tell them, because it’s the only place
I ever spend my time, and it really depresses
the crap out of me. I’m going to tell them,
“I’m going to the airport.” (Laughter) (Applause) (Video) (Music) Allen Lim: Well, why didn’t I ask
these guys to just take the bus? I’ve got a little cramp. (Airport announcement) [Just ride.] [Just ride. Just ride.] [Just ride. Just ride. Just ride.] (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)