Of Bicycles & IT

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I used to be an avid cyclist. Thirty, fifty, or one hundred miles in a day were not uncommon distances for me to ride. I never wanted to be fast on my bicycle. I just wanted to ride and relax. I would load up my gear and go off on weekend trips. A few water bottles, a small tent, some cookware, a change of clothes, my portable bike tool kit, and a couple of spare inner tubes was all that I needed to enjoy myself for a few days.

Then I got married, had kids, bought a house, and for some reason I stopped riding on a regular basis. I certainly do not regret nor blame any of these events for the demise of my cycling hobby, but in the act of moving forward I somehow left a great hobby behind.

The kids are older now, and they no longer need that constant supervision that toddlers and small children require. I only have about 2 and a half years before my daughter is officially a teenager, and my son is not far behind that. My wife has never held me back from cycling, and the house has always remained standing no matter how much tinkering I do to it. There really is no excuse for me not to get back on a bicycle and to start working on getting back into riding shape again. I pulled my old Trek out of storage, tuned it up, and quickly realized that I wanted a lighter frame bike.

Yeah, it looks like I am getting soft in my old age.

I started to research the latest touring bicycles. Length of the chain stay on the latest frames, what kind of brakes are best for all weather conditions, new findings in regards to how your seat should be positioned for long rides, etc. Soon enough I had convinced myself that I needed to have the latest in bicycle technology if I was ever going to ride a hundred miles in a day again. I would need all new pannier bags since my old ones were… old. My portable tool kit would have to be replaced too. You cannot possibly use an old dog bone wrench on a shiny new bicycle! To be safe I would have to replace everything.

I was going to have to spend several thousand dollars on all new equipment. No doubt about it. I needed the latest technology simply because it is the newest and therefore had to be the best. I told my wife that I was going to have to adjust our budget so that I could save up and buy all of this incredibly important new technology. It would take time to save up all that I needed to, but once I had it I could start riding again.

“Why don’t you just buy a cheap bicycle to get back into the habit of riding instead?” was my wife’s response.

Damn my wife is smart! Here I was fooling myself into thinking that by getting the latest cycling technology that I would somehow build a time machine back to when I took those long bike tours. The truth is that all of that research was just clouding my judgment. I have no idea what I need now as compared to ten years ago for me to enjoy a long bike ride. I certainly needed a new helmet for safety reasons, and I really wanted a lighter frame, but did I really need the best that I could afford starting with day one of my cycling rebirth?

I went to the local big box store and bought a single speed road bike for $100 plus tax. I put on my old seat which still feels comfortable, and I used my old tools to make the change. Then I hit the road.

I enjoyed every minute of my ride. The bicycle needed to be tuned (big box staff are not paid to align wheels properly it seems), and I doubt it will last very long compared to other bicycles that I have had in the past. I certainly will not be using it for long tours because it does not have the eyelets that I would need for a good rear rack and water bottles. That is okay. I still had a great ride that first day, and every day since.

What really I needed was to rediscover how cycling made me happy, and for that all I needed was the simplest of bicycles with a lighter frame.

I talk to a lot of clients who are preparing to build all new infrastructure for services that they have never deployed before. They ask if my product will provide the latest features that they read about in last week’s trade magazine. Sometimes my product does, sometimes it does not, but I always ask why that feature is important to the client. Far too often the answer is that the client figures they will need every one of the latest features that they have heard or read about in the last month or so.

The truth is that you if you have never deployed a service before you do not need to start with the latest and greatest technology. You need to start with the bare minimum requirements with which to run a pilot of that service for the lowest cost possible. You need to learn what it is that your company or organization really wants and needs first. Then you will be able to start deciding on what advanced features and technologies make the most sense for you to invest money and time into.

Your pilot might even reveal that you should not  deploy the new service at all. That is probably one of the best results that you can hope for from any pilot program!

IT is an industry where you have to keep your eyes on the horizon, but that horizon spans 360 degrees so you still have to know where you want to go. Learn how to design a good pilot program first before you go and buy the latest technology. Read about the fundamentals of the service you wish to provide before you dive into the bleeding edge tech available for that service. That is how an IT professional can reap long term success instead of making short sighted purchases.

Even if your pilot program reveals that you cannot scale the service on your current gear, at least you will have learned that lesson before investing your entire budget into something that might not work at all. And that paves the road ahead of you for a smooth ride indeed!

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