Category Archives: Gavia Cycling

The Participation Continuum

The Participation Continuum

The participation continuum moves from general to specific, with most of us satisfied to simply participate which, after all, is usually a very big improvement over where we started!


To move from outside the triangle to the lowest level (4) requires the most effort.  Forgetting the money for a second, that decision to change your life is the most difficult and should be the one you are most proud of.  I know from my own experience how difficult it is to simply begin moving when one weighs 125 kilos/270 pounds (yes I weighed that much, it took a lot of eating and drinking but somehow I managed); it requires the biggest investment of emotion and a massive change in lifestyle (no pun intended).  I speak in the context of weight + lifestyle changes because that is one of my experiences but any large step in a positive direction that takes you outside your comfort zone is something you should be proud of.

Now that you have taken the BIG STEP and are in the continuum, where would you like to be as it relates to your cycling practice?

Level 4 – has the largest percentage of cyclists; we are simply happy to be riding our bikes.  In my own case I was teaching an indoor cycling program called RPM.  I was helping my students get good results but wanted to be a better teacher so thought I ought to learn how to ride a road bike.  I was a strong indoor teacher and had trained  some of my students to be teachers as well but when I got on a road bike I had no clue – didn’t know where the gears were and when my little Polar speedometer hit 10 mph (I didn’t know about km back then either) my knees shook.  I may not have known where the gears were but man the brakes were my best friend!  My rides were solo and on my first ride to State Line when I got to the sign I looked ahead, it seemed to me that the cyclists were launching themselves off a cliff; I turned around and went home thinking “those people are crazy!”.

Level 3 – enter the group rides and the number of participants is smaller.  We find a group that we like to ride with and just get out there.  If we are lucky we learn the right habits although it is often hit or miss and unfortunately the teaching, although well-intended, is along the lines of “this is what I do”.  Of course if you find yourself in the wrong group…well, you know how it goes.  Still, you could remain at this level forever and have a great cycling experience – this level does not require a significant change in the resources you need to devote (unless you get caught up in the n+1 silliness, waste your money on the next ceramic nonsense, etc.).

(I write this in bold print because I believe it to be true, and I realize that it is self-serving:  invest your time and money in cycling education that will be specific to you and it will serve you for a lifetime.  Invest your money in “stuff” and you will continue to have more “stuff”.  Do what is best for you based on your own goals rather than impulse).    

I was lucky in that I had a built in group of indoor cyclists who I could (bother/coerce/convince/bribe/name it) to get a road bike and start riding.  We went of massive rides – some as far as Piermont from Ridgefield (NJ not CT)!  Madness!  Who knew we could ride from one State to another on the same day!

Level 2 – level up!  Again, the number of people in the triangle decreases as this requires a thoughtful allocation of resources (time, money, emotion) which many people cannot or will not make.  They are happy to remain at the group ride level.  In order to improve from the group rides phase to the next level of cycling one needs a teacher whose attention is on how to help the student improve.  Talking generalities to other cyclists and seeing what worked for those cyclists like the Stephen Covey analogy where Dr. Covey in his book “7 habits of Highly Effective People” asks if you would continue to visit an eye doctor who, when you sit in the chair to prepare for the exam hands you her eyeglasses and says “here, try these” and when they don’t work for you says “I don’t understand, those eyeglasses work for me!”.

Level 2 is where you invest in yourself to move from the general to the specific!  In addition to the group rides you will participate in events and camps, and you will be riding with a sense of purpose.  You don’t have to expect to finish first, but with coaching and a goal you will be riding with intent.  As in our everyday lives, living with intent gives us purpose and direction.

My experience was slightly different because I really enjoy teaching and I was able to further my cycling education by taking courses and seminars (I certified with Saris about 10 years ago) and was able to get my coaching license through USA Cycling.  I was leveling up to not only improve my own cycling through additional knowledge but mostly to be a better teacher and coach.

Most cyclists who want to improve from simple participation in group rides to a higher level of knowledge hire a coach so that they can continue building their own lives but at the same time participate, improve and benefit from their cycling practice (I had been teaching indoors, riding, developing new teachers and building my own knowledge and experience for 10 years prior to taking on coaching students for road cycling).  The idea of working with a teacher is to be able to move from general to specific – you invest some resources but don’t waste time with trial and error.  You learn and you grow and you live a better life with the guidance of your teacher.

Level 2 is a big step, almost as big as the one we make to become part of the continuum rather than remain outside the triangle.

Level 1.  This could be combined with Level 2, I could have simply used three level rather than 4, but I thought this needed an additional category.  Sign up for events with your friends and on your own to make new friends.  The people you meet at these events share your passion for cycling and before you know it you are learning about the world outside of the one in which you live.

Being part of GFNY has provided me the opportunity to meet literally thousands of people from every part of the world all while developing better relationships with our local cycling community – for that I cannot express enough gratitude.  Where else can you be laying on your couch at home in the 12th week of chemo, take a look at Facebook and see Uli doing a LIVE video letting everyone know that they imprinted 5,000 armbands with GFNY4VITO so that all the participants in 2016 could wear them to create a healing energy and spirit.

Positive change requires us to do something extraordinary.  Not all of us have an opportunity to play for the NY Giants and score the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl but each of us have the opportunity to level up within the context of our own lives!

Thank you for reading.

Vito Valentini, Human Potential Catalyst
Head Coach, GAVIA Cycling

For more information on how we can help you improve your cycling practice please visit us at GAVIA Cycling


Taking life for granted

We wake up every day with a certain set of expectations, that everything is firmly in place for our benefit; most of us don’t give it a second thought.  We are very spoiled in many ways – we have way more of anything and everything than we will ever need, and yet for many it isn’t enough.  Can it be?

What are your first 5 thoughts in the morning?  Do they include being grateful for being alive, grateful to be able to breathe clean air, eat fresh food, drink clean water and to have an abundance of family and friends?  This is part of living in the present moment; it is really the only moment available to us.  The past is gone, its only significance provided by our interpretation and the meaning we give it.  The future is a fiction.  And yet, how many of us are using our phone while we are in face to face with someone else OR how many of us are talking on the phone and working on the computer OR – my favorite – watching someone on the computer while on the phone AND talking to someone in front of them.

Is this progress?  Does this somehow make us significant?  Is this human connection?  Is there an opportunity for us to put down the phone and speak together; something good may come from it.

DeRosa factory photo

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The Cycle of Collective Consciousness

First please allow me to say thank you for all the wonderful birthday wishes I received last week; I turned 60 on August 29th (I share the same birthday as Michael Jackson, a person with an incredible amount of talent whose life was too short).  I made my best effort to write an individual thank you to each email and FB post (the number of people who took the time to wish me Happy Birthday was humbling to say the least) – if I missed you please accept my apology, it was not for lack of will or effort on my part, just bad eyesight!).  The collective effort each of you made on my behalf made me very happy – which brings me to the thought of collective consciousness.

In cycling and in life, individually we are strong and have tremendous potential, together we can accomplish anything we set our minds to and, just as significantly, help others as well.  I know this from my own experience with cancer in 2017.  Most of you know I was diagnosed with Stage 3 testicular cancer on Jan 11, 2017, had surgery to remove an almost 600 gram tumor on January 13, 2017 and began a 3 drug, 4 cycle chemo treatment on February 20, 2017.  The doctor described it as follows: “look at it like a really hard 12 round boxing match, with each round making you feel progressively worse to the point where you will struggle to get up for the 12th round.  Get up, keep going, and at the end of it hopefully you won’t be knocked out or dead”.

The collective support I received from people near and far was simply incredible and unearned.  My wife, my family, my in laws, our Gavia and GFNY Cycling communities, cyclists from all over the world – everyone wrote, called, texted, visited, sent small gifts with large meaning (consider that GFNY produced 5,000 arm bands that said “GFNY4Vito” for participants to wear during the race in May, that Gavia members took care of the studio, that my wife and in-laws made sure I got to the hospital for treatment when I could barely walk and that the good wishes from people I didn’t know all that well simply continued.  That accumulation of good wishes, that collective and conscious effort, is clearly what made the difference between living and dying.  When people say “you beat cancer” I correct them.  I did not beat anything, there was nothing for me to do except to simply accept the treatment I was given.  Its the collective good energy and spirit that supported me during my treatment that made the difference.

Each of us have the power to change our own world and the world around us through the use of positive collective consciousness; every thought, every effort, every gesture large or small matters.  We are one – like the ocean, we cannot tell where one wave ends and the other wave begins.  Even the waves that break onto the shoreline roll back and become part of the ocean again.

Each of us have the power to create positive change in the world; what will you do today?  What thoughts will you put out into the world?

Thanks again for all your kindness!


Cycling Mimics Life – Improvement Requires Faith, Preparation and Effort

“Hope is not a strategy” – Jerry Gallagher

It is important to remain present while knowing that, irrespective of current circumstances, the future will be phenomenal if you know that it will be and you put in the work.  Now.  If you believe that the miracle that is you has already been created without you having done anything at all then having faith in tomorrow is also possible for you.  Now that you are here you need to do your part, you need to begin, you need to show up, you need to create some positive energy and forward motion and have faith that if you do that to the best of your ability then you will create the life you want.  As Dr. Wayne Dyer said “you have to believe it before you see it”.  Life will always support you in a way that makes you right.  Fill your mind with all the reasons why you cannot accomplish something or dedicate your mind an energy toward accomplishing your goal; in the end one of those will come true for you.

We run into difficulty when we are not present, when we spend all our time and energy thinking and worrying about all the things we don’t have rather than being grateful for what we actually do have.  Yesterday is no longer here, it is old news.  We have absolutely no idea what tomorrow will bring.  We will create tomorrow by what we do and think and feel and believe today.

Having a plan and someone to talk to when the plan goes awry is fundamental to success.  Thankfully all plans go awry at some point, usually leading to some unimaginably phenomenal developments – if we could have imagined them they would have been part of the plan, we just didn’t know enough until the brick wall fell on us!  More often than not we give up or we start convincing ourselves that what we are striving for will not happen – the race won’t go well, the promotion won’t happen, the relationship is a mess, the business won’t work.  What if you directed your energy toward making sure, to the best of your ability, that the outcome you want is actually within your reach – that some faith, “preparation and effort” will provide you with a successful outcome, perhaps better than you thought?

Each of us and all of us have an unbreakable spirit which gets tested from time to time, perhaps more often than we would like.  We will never see that spirit or benefit from it if we do not know – not believe, know – it is there.  When students thank me for helping them improve or achieve one of their goals my response is always this “everything you need is inside you, if I helped you find it then I am happy but always remember, you did the work, you believed in yourself, you believed in your training and continued moving forward.”

The quality of our lives is directly related to how we view and interpret information and events.  This interpretation is typically filtered by prior experiences; we need to turn off that filter and start looking forward with some fresh eyes and an open heart or we will forever be stuck with yesterdays problems and issues.

Let me give you the example of a wide receiver for a football team and compare that to what you might describe as your successes and failures (these stats are public information):

Number of seasons  13
Number of total games  190
Number of offensive plays in a typical football game  60
Number of potential plays that could have involved this player  11,400
Number of times he was targeted for a pass/play  1,239
Number of receptions  668

The typical conversation many of us would have goes something like this:  “I only got picked 11% of the time (1,239 out of 11,400 possible times) and I didn’t catch it half the times (669 out of 1,239) the quarterback targeted me.”  This particular player knows that the two things in his control are his “preparation and effort” (that is a direct quote, you can read the article HERE ) and that by doing those two things he cannot guarantee, but he can absolutely influence, his outcome.   In order to prepare properly and make the best possible effort you must first believe, then know, that your outcome is available to you.  The Giants did not win the Super Bowl in January, 2001, they did not allow that “failure” to stop them from achieving their goal in 2008.

Reading this, this former pro is probably scratching his head saying ……(you will hear it for yourself if you tune in to our inaugural podcast next week with Amani Toomer).  Yes, these are the actual stats for Amani Toomer, All Pro wide receiver for the NY Giants, recognized as one of the greatest receivers of all time HERE, on the Super Bowl winning team in 2008 (after coming back from knee surgery).

Look for what is good, in people and in life; know that your success is there for you if you believe in yourself (Your Self) and are willing to move forward knowing that your opportunity is there for the taking – you will be pleasantly surprised at how your life changes for the positive.


Thoughts on Cycling

Cycling is a practice.  Like true martial arts, traditional yoga cycling, when accepted properly, becomes a process we can use when seeking to live our lives in the best possible way.  Study, train, and a participate with gratitude for having found something so special that it positively impacts every other aspect of our lives.

Start where you start and move forward from there.  This principle is never-ending, we do this on a daily basis.  Accept your staring point each day and simply do your best.  Keep  in mind that you can always do a little bit more than you think you can; don’t believe everything you think.

Craving more doesn’t help anyone.  Bigger, better, faster; the cycle of never-ending unhappiness with our current status – in our capabilities, our possessions, our abilities – leads to frustration on a daily basis.  The better way is to simply put in the work – the practice is what matters, results come from the practice and participation and remember this: there are absolutely no shortcuts.  None.  To anything or anywhere.  Shortcuts cause us to miss the process, and one way streets lead to dead ends.

Natural ability and predisposition to something that you live to do is one of the greatest gifts; it is so sad to see people waster their gifts and talents because they get caught up in the story and forget that they have to practice.  Such a waste.  The conversation about how fast the last group ride was, which new trinket to buy today, not knowing which bike to ride today – and for what?  The never ending search for happiness when in fact we already have everything we need to be happy.  Seek knowledge rather than things; the intangible is always more valuable than the tangible because the intangible cannot be easily replicated.  A bike is a bike, a saddle is a saddle and a pair of shoes is a pair of shoes; what differentiates one from another is the heart and soul of the creator.

Quiet your mind, sit with your thoughts and feelings, accept your challenges as growth experiences; if you are reading this then no matter how difficult you might think things are for you, you are more than likely better off than 90% of the world’s population – take a minute and consider how good we all have it.

Then start your day with an attitude of gratitude and see what kind of day you have.

Practice patience with yourself and others, don’t be so quick to judge yourself or others.  Trust yourself, don’t let fear and ego dictate the quality and direction of your life – or your cycling practice.


Life in the Big Ring – Part V

Trust yourself.

How boring life would be if our entire existence, the road ahead, were known to us the minute we were born, or the moment we got onto our bike.  Going off course is inevitable – the discomfort that comes along with that is often our best teacher.  Rather than punish ourselves for going off course we would be better served by accepting that as part of life, part of the ride, learn what we can from the experience and use it to our and our community’s benefit moving forward.

Once we decide to move forward in life we need to accept that not everything will go as planned.  It is impossible to anticipate every directional change our lives will take, no matter how well planned we believe our lives are.  Comparing ourselves to others is not helpful; we have no idea what challenges others have faced and how they responded in order to know what they know.

As cyclists we are lucky.  We have the opportunity to train and prepare for the specific event we choose to participate in; life does not offer that.  Life is constant on the job training – so oftentimes we believe we got it wrong because we make an error in judgement, commission or omission.  To then continually punishing ourselves for having made an error is to detract from the opportunity we created – to learn something and to improve.

To use the past as our map for what we will do or what we can accomplish in the future is a limiting belief; it is not truth.  It is important to accept that the road is not flat and straight but rather it is lumpy, filled with blind turns, fast descents and challenging climbs.  How we decide to navigate the terrain is really up to us.  There is one truth – if we don’t get on the road we won’t move forward.

Trust yourself, accept that the road will not be easy, believe in the training we call life and be grateful for all the learning experiences that come your way.  Please don’t judge yourself harshly, it isn’t helpful to your well being and will not allow you to move forward and continue learning.

Don’t trade your humanity for privilege (a paraphrase from the book “Radical Dharma”.


Life in the Big Ring – Part IV

I told this story to Uli during our last GFNY Podcast (“>) and thought I would share it with you as well.

Subsequent to my surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and testicle I visited with the oncologist who was going to treat me.  When he let me know the treatment he proposed I explained to him that I had accepted what was going to happen to me, which he took as me accepting that I was going to die.  I explained to him that I meant I was accepting that I had a serious issue that had to be dealt with in a serious way and that there were going to be difficulties along the road for the ensuing 12 weeks.  Clearly I hoped that the treatment would create a positive result, but if not then we would deal with that at the appropriate time in the appropriate way.  Of course I was hoping not to die.  I have an incredible wife, I have brothers, sister, nieces and nephews and a great group of friends.  I also believe I have something to offer in life.  Living is my first choice; but if it isn’t meant to be then let;s not pay the price twice by suffering during the process – let’s live every day to the best of our ability and go from there.

I was simply accepting “what is”.  Wishing that I didn’t have cancer would have only caused more difficulty for me and those around me thereby making a difficult situation more difficult.  Those that know me know that I am not without emotion – I laugh, I cry, I try, I feel a lot – but what I try not to do is hurt myself by wishing something weren’t what it is.

The world is full of noise; sometimes we are in such pain from our own “what is” we find it easier to get caught up in that noise, even though we have no ability to directly effect the outcome, than to focus on our own well-being and goals.

We do however have the ability to positively affect the collective consciousness of the world by being our best possible self, accepting our “what is” in the present and working toward creating a better future.  To be able to focus on our in and out breath while we take simple and effective action toward developing a better future for ourselves and our community helps us feel more in control of our destiny.

The climb is the climb, the grade is the grade, the elevation is the elevation – that is the “what is”.  What will you do when you make the turn, the grade increases and the end is nowhere in sight?  Fight and you will lose, of that there is no doubt.  Surrender and you carry it with you to suffer again and again.  Be present, focus on your in and out breath, do your best, accept the “what is”.  Cycling mimics life.


Life in the Big Ring – Part III

“When we are in the trance of unworthiness, we’re not aware of how much our body, emotions, and thoughts have locked into a sense of falling short and the fear that we’re going to fail. The trance of unworthiness brings us to addictive behaviors as we try to soothe the discomfort of fear and shame. It makes it difficult to be intimate, spontaneous and real with others, because we have the sense that, even if they don’t already know, they will find out how flawed we really are. It makes it hard to take risks because we’re afraid we’re going to fall short. We can never really relax. Right in the heart of the trance, there is a need to do something to be better, to avoid the failure lurking right around the corner.”  – Tara Brach, Author of Radical Acceptance (and much more…)

I applied for a program being offered by Seth Godin recently.  It was an intensive, two day publishing course at his office – and it was free.  They were only accepting 8 participants and as you can imagine the number of people applying would be very high so my chances of being accepted were the opposite, not very high at all – about 8 in 1,000.

I applied.

I found out today that I didn’t get accepted.

I do not consider myself to be a failure for not having been accepted; we both know that my chances of being accepted would have been much lower had I not applied!

 What is it that you would like to do, and why are you not doing it?  The perception of safety is just that, a perception.   Over-analysis causes paralysis; you can always find a rational reason NOT to do something.  You can always limit your beliefs by what happened in the past or by the story someone tells you about what happened to them.  Don’t believe either one of them, they are just perceptions of the reality created by a limiting belief – that “trance of unworthiness”, that fear of failure.

Fear = False Evidence Appearing Real

What are you waiting for; start now, join now, move forward now, sing now, ride now!


Life in the Big Ring – Part II

“It’s hard to know whether to laugh or to cry at the human predicament. Here we are with so much wisdom and tenderness, and—without even knowing it—we cover it over to protect ourselves from insecurity. Although we have the potential to experience the freedom of a butterfly, we mysteriously prefer the small and fearful cocoon of ego.”
– Pema Chodron, The Places that Scare You

In cycling and in life we often interpret current events and predict what will happen tomorrow based on what happened yesterday, last week, last month, ten years ago or perhaps even by what happened to someone else.  And yet, if we stop and think about it for a second we realize it doesn’t have to be that way.  Each person’s circumstance is unique, and even our own circumstances and therefore potential result are also unique.  We create limiting beliefs based on nothing more than experiences, either our own or someone else’s, the hold us back from accomplishing the great things we are capable of.

If we look hard enough we can always talk ourselves out of something.

If we look hard enough we can always create a reason not to do something.

If we look hard enough and don’t find a reason not to do something we can always find someone who will convince us not to do something.

Personal progress does not occur by magic.  The magic has already happened, we exist; the rest is up to us.

Part III tomorrow.

Dream, Plan, Do, Celebrate!

Cycling…………..relationships……..mimic each other in many ways including this: leaving it up to chance or said another way, not investing some time to think about a plan for yourself, essentially saying that you will live by someone else’s plan for you. 

Somehow you have convinced yourself that the pain associated with the development of a plan and perhaps not achieving the exact result you desired is worse than the potential pleasure of successfully executing your plan and getting those results, or perhaps you just don’t think you know what to do so you just don’t get started.  I have found, both through my own experiences (the “good ones” and the “learning ones” – there aren’t any “bad ones”) that by simply getting started you set in motion forces that have been lying dormant inside of you, simply waiting there to help you…except you have been too busy focusing on all the perceived problems in your life that you haven’t been able to see the opportunities. 

A couple of things come to mind from my own experiences (perhaps you might identify):

  • “I’m not a morning person.”  What does that mean exactly?  Does anyone really believe that people are genetically predisposed to either getting up or not getting up early?  If that’s the case what happens when one makes a drastic change in their time zone?  Tell me you don’t get to bed until 2AM for whatever reason and of course (well…maybe) I understand not getting up at 4:30AM (I said maybe).  Perhaps the real reason is it just isn’t important to you to get up early and jump-start your day by training (perish the thought).  The truth is this: anyone can do it if they attach enough meaning to it.
  • “I don’t have enough time.”  I don’t know about you but when I was using that excuse and looked down at my watch it seemed to have the same 12 numbers on it as the next person’s (pre today’s super watches of course!)
  • “I’ll start tomorrow”.  Let me leave you with this thought.  Leave 1 ounce of bodyweight extra each day for a year – one ounce.  365 ounces…23 pounds….without compounding….

Some thoughts that might inspire you to get going, especially on those days when you expected to wake up to a sunny, 60 degree day…and the temperature reading is 24 and dropping!

  1. Start where you start and go from there. Make a realistic assessment of your starting point, and make sure to focus on all your positive attributes and characteristics rather than waste time thinking about the three l’s – lack, loss and limitation (in other words, what you don’t have, what you thought you had and don’t any longer, or the idea that you aren’t good enough for something).  Think about those positive characteristics as your base, something to build on!
  2. Remember your dream – create a vision for your future. Your future is created by you.  Circumstances move through your life without permanence – how you perceive them and deal with them is what creates your present frame of mind and therefore your actions which lead directly to your future.  Success breeds success – in sports, in business, in life – it is known as momentum… it right and it becomes a tidal wave!  If you thought of your potential as limitless, and that is really the only way to think about it, what would you do right now?  What decisions would you make?  Even undecided is a decision….can you imagine sitting on a picket fence, with the choices being right or left and saying “I think I will be undecided”?  More painful than the saddle on your first bike, no doubt!
  3. Learning more is critical! You can only make decisions and choices based on your current point of view and information you have at that moment in time.  Learn more and you will develop greater perspective, leading to a deeper understanding about yourself and the world around you, which in turn will empower you to make the best possible choices in the current moment…your future is NOW!
  4. Always do your best. You will hear this from me as we ride together – “you are a champion when you do your best….YOUR best, not someone else’s”.  Always do your best in any given set of circumstances; do that and you will begin to have confidence in your ability AND you will trust yourself to make what seem like difficult choices.  Recognize that “your best” changes with different circumstances; my own example – my power output in my current classes is 60% of what it was prior to my cancer and chemo treatments.  Clearly circumstances changed, for now.  It isn’t permanent, and with dedicated effort improvements will come.  I know that because as low as it is compared to a year ago it is still better than it was a few years ago.  Be careful not to use the given set of circumstances as a crutch…always give it everything you’ve got…or don’t bother.
  5. Create something new. I will paraphrase my friend Mary Lynne – “don’t waste time trying to repair what doesn’t need fixing, there is nothing wrong with you.”  Keep your eye on the horizon as you follow your path –an Aurora (a new beginning, a new dawn) is always being created from that point forward.  You MUST accept everything that has transpired in your life to this point as something that was required to happen in order to be here and now!  Some of the experiences may have been challenging (to say the least), but if I were a gambling man I would bet dollars to donuts that those experiences are the ones that have helped you grow the most.
  6. Celebrate and build on your success. You can feel a quiet satisfaction from your success – the celebration does not necessarily need to be loud…but it can be if you like!


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