On the Road: Biking to a New and Better Place

I have a confession to make: I’ve never taken bikes seriously. They were always more of a vehicle for getting around when I didn’t feel like driving, didn’t have a car, or just wanted to take a leisurely day off from running and take in the scenery. I rode my bike to the gym to go running on the treadmill.

Then a friend convinced me to try a ‘fun’ bike club. I thought, why not? After years of being a runner, I am ready for a new sport. After much coaxing and cajoling (“It’s for fun! You’ll be fine…we all ride 50, 100 miles on other rides, but THIS club is for fun!! Come on, just try it! “), I showed up one recent Monday night in my yoga pants and tank top, my water bottles in my son’s drawstring pack on my back. I was on my ancient mountain bike with the broken gears that I had used since my kids were…very little (they are teens now).

Needless to say, I was intimidated when I approached the group…they all had on very professional cycling bikes, bike shorts (with great seat padding), bike shirts with logos on them, even the ten-year-old girl…yeah, it was like that. 🙂 I walked up, cracked a joke – “Oh, this isn’t yoga biking??” and proceeded on a ten-mile bike ride that reminded me of three very important things: I love the feel of the wind on my face; I love the conversations along the way; and I love a new challenge – and I was ready for one.

Two weeks later, I bought this:

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A real bike from a real bike store instead of Target, for the first time in my life. Gray with pink trim, right up my color alley. I have the shorts, the helmet, even a bike shirt (no logos, just pockets – where else will you put your phone, brush and chapstick??). I learned how to change my tire if I got a flat (although I forgot about five seconds after walking out the door – but I have the tools and my phone will be in my bike shirt pocket, so I will YouTube it should a flat transpire).

Since then, I have been taking the bike out on my own to get comfortable with the gears and the skinny tires;figure out how to sit so my ‘seat’ doesn’t ache too bad; how to focus on the road (instead of leisurely looking around) and avoid potholes, pissing off too many cars, and basically not killing myself. (Running, I must say, is much easier.) It’s a challenge and it requires concentration, balance and skill. It will take some time, but I get more confident with every ride. My goal is to do my first triathlon next year – the bike club gals talked me into it at dinner after our first ride. They inspired me, what can I say? The best advice they gave me: focus on completing, not competing. It made me forget that I am new to cycling, that I haven’t done swimming as a sport since high school, that I am middle age. It made me want to try.

So the other day, I was riding on a terrible street – bumpy, potholes, lots of cars. Then I turned down a side street, next to the railroad tracks, and it had recently been completely repaved. I rode for about two miles on the smoothest, easiest patch of road I have ever experienced. The sun was shining on my face, it was a perfectly warm summer day, the sky was the bluest eye blue I have ever seen.

It occurred to me in that moment that this is life. Rough patches of road with smooth ones in between. You never appreciate the smooth roads as much as after a rough one. And nothing makes the ride better than good weather, good friends, and the right bike to take you where you want to go.

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