Coming to appreciate your limits

By Sarah Hansing

Somewhere in SoCal. Riding micro-marbles on concrete. Photo: Brad Ables.

Somewhere in SoCal. Riding micro-marbles on concrete. Photo: Brad Ables.

I think it is fair to say that “know your limits” is not one of my favorite phrases. In fact, as much as it is repeated and circulated among the masses, I think it is ALSO fair to say that I can’t remember this well worn piece of advice ever being printed on a t-shirt, a refrigerator magnet, or a bumper sticker.

I CERTAINLY haven’t ever seen “Know Your Limits” printed on a coffee mug before.

We all tend to like the ones that say “Shoot for the Stars!” “Dream Big!” or “Anything is Possible!” a whole lot more, as far as printable quotes go. Because we don’t really LIKE limitations. We didn’t like them when we were kids, and we sure as hell don’t like them now.

Yet as much as I really don’t like them, I do need them. I’m coming to appreciate them.

(I think I heard a collective, audible gasp from friends and family around the world as they just read that sentence.

Everyone calm down, there is no need to send me off for evaluation, just yet. Because here is the thing: Knowing your limits means you can push those limits.  You can stretch and grow the boundaries of those limits. Limits are kind of like a rubberband, in a sense; it’s best to not stretch with caution, and avoid the snap and sting that comes with trying to stretch too much, too fast.

I am just back on the mountain bike after a solid month of being off the bike, because of an injury. My limits have been pushed back. I don’t like it. But I know it, and I recognize it. Because I don’t want those limits pushed back any further, I have to respect that and ride according to the new limit laws of my body. This is how I’m going to get better, and gradually stretch and grow back into the riding style I had before the injury. At first REALLY did not like this.  

But you know what I like even less?  

Being off the bike entirely.

That was a limit I simply abhorred.

I’ve now realized that these limit laws have always been there. They are there regardless of how fit and fast and skilled and daring any of us are. We have all had to grow and stretch our limits. We all continue to do so. You see, knowing and respecting your limits doesn’t mean you aren’t challenging yourself and it doesn’t mean you aren’t dreaming big. It just means that you have a lot better chance at surviving to see those dreams come to fruition.  

Know Your Limits, But Push Them. Now THAT would be a good coffee mug.


​Fat Tire Tuesday columnist Sarah Hansing has been slinging wrenches as a pro bike mechanic for 15 years (with the exception of a one year stint working for Trek Bicycles in Wisconsin.) Epicenter Cycling scooped her up as their lead mechanic and the shop’s crew plans to ​keep her forever. Sarah loves riding singlet​rack, wrenching on bikes, and hanging out with her jerk-face but adorable cat Harlan. (Who is a jerk.)