A little maroon bike changed my life. I bought it exactly ten years ago, with my tax return and a little help from my parents. I enjoyed spin classes, I was injured from running and planning to do a triathlon someday, and I longed to be able to exercise outside the four stifling walls of my gym. Never mind that I hadn’t actually ridden a bike in about a decade. Road biking seemed a fitting hobby.Speaking of fitting, my new sport necessitated I wear the requisite spandex shorts and blindingly bright, loudly patterned jerseys. Also, there were the shoes. Not only did they look ridiculous, I had to get over the paralyzing fear of my feet being attached to the pedals of a bike with really really skinny tires. But as with any fashion statement- be it bike apparel, jeggings, skinny jeans, what have you- I discovered, if you’re going to wear it, you have to own it. Soon enough, I was hitting to the grocery store apres rides in my spandex like it it was no big whoop. (And in Boulder, Colorado it isn’t. But this was when I lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where it kind of was. A few years later, it was In Rhode Island, where rocking spandex at Stop and Shop qualified me as an alien. Not the illegal kind, the kind from Mars that no one has ever seen).
Once I had the fashion situation under control, there was the small matter of actually riding the bike.
The thing about road biking is it is almost always done on roads. As in, roads where cars drive. This was terrifying to me. So terrifying in fact, that I would willingly seek out large groups of very fit strangers, whom I would meet in rural areas and then pedal for dear life for 30 miles or more, just to ride with other people, rather than ride alone.
On my first group ride, somewhere between deciding I would rather be anywhere but on my bike and wishing I could just die and let the torture end, one of the guys noticed I was having a hard time.
“Do you need anything?”
I think he was wondering if I’d brought enough water or needed a gel.
Between gasps for air, I said, “An ambulance?”
My ambulance never came and I had to pedal my sorry self back to my car. This would be the first of many, many times I had to keep going when I really didn’t feel like it. Biking taught me perseverance.
A year passed since my ambulance request and I had gotten rid of not only a few extra pounds, but also my fear of clipless pedals (though not without taking down several fellow cyclists and sustaining a bloody gash in my ankle, the result of a poorly managed stop sign situation), as well as my anxiety about riding alone, and the dorky visor on my helmet. I’d completed my first metric century (62 miles) and my first sprint triathlon.
I still didn’t know how to change a flat tire however. While biking did not do much to improve my anger problem, as my failed attempts to change a tire ended in crying, cursing, screaming, and throwing my tire lever, it did help me hone a much more important skill- getting people to do what I wanted. No, I could not change a tire, but I knew how to bake and could be quite friendly with the men folk. With a fresh loaf of banana bread in hand, I could flirt my way to the front of the queue at any bike shop and get my flat changed in a hurry.
Inevitably, I had a flat tire during a triathlon and those cute bike mechanics who had always been so generous with their time and their strong, nimble hands were not there to help. A kind pair of sisters who were racing together (ps…is that the cutest thing you’ve ever heard of!?), stopped to help me. I was able to finish but my time was in the toilet. I vowed to learn out how to change a flat myself. So I sat with my bike and a knowledgeable, patient friend until I figured it out. It turned out, doing it myself felt a lot better than getting someone else to do it for me, and I didn’t even have to turn on the oven (or the charm). From my bike, I learned self-sufficiency.
Now that I had conquered the unthinkable challenge of Changing My Own Flat Tire the obvious next step was to sign up for a an ironman triathlon, which consists of a 1.2 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. Because obviously, if you can change a tire, you can do anything. Actually, I think my main reason for doing my first ironman was that my friend said she was going to do it, and I’d promised her I would do it if she did. I never said the bike made me smart.
Over the past decade, I’ve ridden that bike up Mount Mitchell, the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains. I’ve taken her up Beech Mountain, the legendary training ride that took Lance Armstrong from his battle with cancer to his Tour de France victory. We’ve ridden through the countryside of southern Spain, including Pico Vuelta, Europe’s highest road. We’ve seen nearly every back road in Rhode Island, as well as parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts, sometimes all in one day. I’ve pedaled her across most of the state of Arizona, and across the windy plains and over the peaks of Wyoming. We’ve made it to the top of some of Colorado’s most intimidating passes, including Mount Evans, Wolf Creek Pass, Slumgullion Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, and the Dallas Divide. I’ve climbed our way out of Montrose’s punishing Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I am not going to tell you how many of these suffer-fests were born of peer pressure. Like I said, the bike made me stubborn, not smart.
The bike has made me a lot of things- strong, fit, disciplined, tenacious, and fearless among them, but most of all, it made, and continues to make me happy. Riding my bike with the wind in my face and the sun on my back brings a smile to my face. The bone aching fatigue of a long day in the saddle makes my heart sing. The out of this world deliciousness of a medium rare cheeseburger after one of those days is enough to make this agnostic pretty sure God exists.
Resting my hands on a steering wheel and keeping one foot on the gas will never be more fun than hanging onto the handlebars and pushing both feet down on the pedals. It doesn’t matter if I’m heading up Lefthand Canyon or taking the bike path to the library with Sweet Pea in the Burley. When I’m riding my bike, I feel like humming a song. Not that you could necessarily recognize it. I never said the bike made me a better singer- just a little better, braver of a person.
|We’ve had ten great years together.|
Stephanie at Mommy For Real,
Janine at Janine’s Confessions of Mommyholic
Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine
and Dawn at Dawn’s Disaster.