5 pieces of advice I wish I’d been given when I started cycling

Posted on: October 20th, 2017

5 pieces of advice I wish I'd been given me when I started cycling

I reflect on my younger self much more these days. There were some great times but I simply wouldn’t trade it for how I ride my bike or live my life now.


Having been a pro cyclist for many years, Joe Barr completed his last contract in 1997 and wondered what he would do next.

He continued to ride; taking part in Gran Fondos and then getting involved in ultra racing. Now aged 58 years, he’s still riding some of the biggest endurance races in the world.

Here he reflects on some of the things he wishes he’d known from that time he set out for France as a 17-year-old.


By Joe Barr

Maybe it’s because we’re about to run our first Endurance Workshop so once again I find myself embarking on something new in cycling – teaching and sharing the wisdom of the road.

Or maybe it’s because I’m beginning to reflect on the fantastic 2017 season which is yet to conclude.

Maybe it’s simply the time of year or the stage in life…or…or…or….

Bottom line, I’m feeling nostalgic and want to share some advice I wish someone had given me many years ago.

1 Winning and happiness are not mutually exclusive

For those of you who knew me in my younger mainstream days you’ll know that I was single-minded, abrasive and bull-headed at times.

In the 80’s and 90’s you had to be if you wanted to forge your own pathway in cycling. It allowed me to cross many finish lines in first place.

Funny thing though, I’m still able to cross finish lines in first place. But abrasive and bull-headed? Absolutely not.

The older me has learned how to forge a pathway from a more peaceful and self-confident place, which becomes an endless source of motivation by the way.

It’s something worth exploring.

2 Dreams matter

They matter at every age and stage because when you turn that dream into a reality it demonstrates how strong and capable you are.

When you give up on your dreams you give up on yourself. Enough said.

3 Surround yourself with people going in the same direction 

Magic happens when a group of people set out to achieve something together.

There needs to 100 per cent commitment; whatever it takes. This is an extremely rare occurrence.

It’s easy to pay lip service to teamwork and we’ve all been in teams that pull apart when the going gets really tough.

To go the distance you need people who are unwavering when the race or life dismantles you.

You need people who can catch you, care for you and tell you the truth – on the uphills and the down hills. No. Matter. What.

It took me a while to surround myself with people like this. Don’t wait as long as I did.

4 The next step can only come if you keep moving forward

When my last professional contract ended in 1997 I entered a profound period of uncertainty. It was a significant ending with no clear beginning. For me, a scary place.

There was outside pressure to stop riding and racing completely. I considered that but thankfully I didn’t.

I raced Grand Fondo’s for a long time and then 12 years later I stumbled into endurance racing and instantly knew this was my new beginning.

So be patient and just keep the bike or your feet or your life moving forward because that’s the only way you’ll find or stumble into your new beginning.

5 Failure is not a full-stop 

Don’t ever be afraid to fail and please don’t sanitise failure. Failing to complete a task is a failure of ‘doing’, not a failure in ‘being’.

Understand the difference.

The greatest lessons of all come from bitter defeat. If you cannot tolerate defeat then you cannot discover your true potential.

Perseverance is one of the most important qualities to hone.