One of the neat things about being a gearhead and knowing how the various systems and assemblies on our vehicles work is that we can use our understanding of them to help us better understand other things. I like to think of this as “automotive metaphor.” Today, what say we see what we can learn about life by thinking about traction and handling on a car.
High Performance Lives: Traction & Handling
On the subject of applying what we know about building high performance machines to building high performance lives, let’s talk about traction. Without traction, all that horsepower just goes up in smoke (or sinks deeper into the mud, depending on what you’re up to). We got to thinking about how we might compare our life decisions to our tire/suspension decisions. Maybe you’ll agree with our findings?
Starting with tires, how does inflation pressure affect traction? We often run different pressures depending on what we’re trying to do. Running higher pressures can yield more miles per gallon on the highway, but running lower pressures can give better traction off-road. Still, some of us run higher pressures in our tires off-road because a little sideways action helps us carry more speed through the corners and we don’t want to blow a tire off the rim!
When we’re blazing new trails, we don’t want too much tire pressure while we’re speeding along or we’re likely to spin out (or have a blow out). Likewise, once we hit the highway, we know we need more pressure in our tires to keep them from overheating, as well as to get the most out of our fuel supply.
What about our suspension setups? Why did we lower or raise our vehicles? Lifts help us creep and crawl over obstacles when the going gets tough. Drops keep us nice and tight through the twisties at high speed when the road is smooth. Compression and rebound – our resiliency to bumps in the road and how quickly we bounce back. Get the balance right and the tires spend the maximum amount of time in full contact with the road. That’s traction.
The Ideal Setup
Think about race car suspension setups for a minute. We generally think of them as being pretty firm; you can feel every crack in the pavement. This is racing right on the edge, but life’s not a race. There are times when a helmet and fire suit might be required, and we’re up for that, but we’re also looking for a comfortable ride too. Careful not to go too soft, though, or we’ll lose time with every corner.
There are almost infinite ways to hook up a vehicle for maximum traction and handling, depending on how we want to use it. This analogy could go on for a very long time, but you get the idea. Professionals at the top of their games might need to spend thousands on suspension bits and tuning, but maybe we just need to let off the gas a bit to hook up right here, right now.
There’s something about the way a well-sorted car feels around the track. That’s the way our lives, as gearheads, should feel in general.
- What kind of tires do you want your life to be running? What kind are you running today?
- How would you describe your life’s suspension setup right now? How would you improve it?