I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 9 years old. I have always been the kind of person that likes to be in control of my own environment & the whole concept of a bicycle was very scary to me. My bike was baby blue with a banana seat, & my friend taught me how to ride it in our col-de-sac after many failed attempts from each of my parents, since I basically refused to learn. Like most girls, when I turned 13 or so riding my bike was no longer "cool" & so I gave it up, even after my parents bought me a lavender 10-speed Schwinn. Needless to say, I was reluctant to get a "racing bike" as an adult after my husband suggested it. "Racing"? ummmm. No.
I finally listened to him, because he's super smart, but I decided on a second-hand beach cruiser instead. After sitting on an actual road bike, being folded up in that unnatural position on that stiff seat, I realized that I was terrified! I lacked the confidence & was scared of something that I felt I couldn't control. So every night after I put the kids to bed I went out for a ride. I started by going to the end of my street & back several times on the beach cruiser. The next day I would go a little further. I used to be scared to pieces to go down this tiny little hill in my subdivision & kept the brakes on the whole time. I finally got to where I would go around the entire neighborhood, several times in a row. I loved riding that bike in the summer at dusk. It made me feel like a kid again & I was gaining confidence.
My husband was starting to get into triathlon & finally convinced me to go ahead & get the road bike. I wound up with a Trek 1.1, an entry-level road bike. No frills on this baby, but I did have them put on pink handlebar tape & pink bottle cages because that is the best color in the universe. I started out really s l o w once I started to ride it. I would load up the bike & take it up to a local bike path that was completely flat & free of cars to practice riding it there.
I would read & learn about cycling every chance I could get, & we watched the Tour de France every night. Feeling more & more confident I decided to get the clip less pedals & shoes so I could get more power in my pedal stroke. My plan was to take the bike back to the bike path to learn how to ride with the shoes, & how not to fall over since I would now be connected to the bike. My husband had other plans: he had entered us in a local sprint triathlon. I had already been swimming for cross-training purposes, & my running was going well. This is the shortest triathlon, & the distances were to swim 400 meters in a lake, ride 12.5 miles on the bike, & run 3.1 miles. Very short distances & I was already up to riding over 30 miles, with swimming 2000 meters or so at a go, & running was a no-brainer. We decided to stay overnight since the race was over an hour from our house, & after checking in to our hotel we went down to St. Joe's State Park to check out the course. I had no idea what to expect, but was excited. That excitement quickly turned to fear as we drove the bike course. Having never gone down a single hill, or getting ANY practice time with the clip less shoes I was absolutely terrified.
On a positive note, the lake was beautiful, calm, & clean so I felt the 400 meters was going to be a breeze. The run was completely uphill, but "bring it" was my feeling as far as that was concerned. We went back to the hotel & I continued to think about the bike course & started really feeling like there was just no way I could do it. No way in HELL, I believe were my actual words... Finally, I just started crying. Like a baby. Laying in bed in the fetal position & bawling like a baby. I don't remember being this worked up over something in my whole life. My husband, being the awesome coach that he is, talked to me about everything & helped me work it out. Sometime that night I finally came to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to "die" & that this thing was gonna go down bright & early the next day. There was no way I wasn't going to do it. So... we went to dinner & talked about it some more, then I took the bike over to the vacant furniture store parking lot next to our hotel & I practiced by myself with my clip less shoes until I felt comfortable in them.
The next morning, even though I had still not gone down (or up!) a single hill, all the anxiety was gone & I was ready to go. I was actually very surprised at how easy it was! I was in great shape, so just 12 miles on the bike was no big deal. I gained a lot of confidence from this race & even came in first in my age group (OK, it was a small race & I was the only one in my age group - lol). After this experience I was finally ready to take the road bike on the road (what a concept!) It's funny to me now that I would put my bike in the car & drive 1.2 miles to the gas station so that I could ride in the bike lane. & only the bike lane. Once it ended, I turned around & went back the other way. Scared to death the entire time. I decided that the only way to learn was just to go out & do it, so I wound up doing the no-drop group ride from the Trek store where I had bought my bike. They were so nice & helped me with shifting & all sorts of other things, & we rode 30 miles on the road WITH CARS! :-0
I was gaining more & more confidence each week from riding with this group that I finally decided to start going out on my own from the house. I'm really blessed to live in this area. We have all the stores you could ever hope for within 2 miles from our house, but it's just a 5 mile bike ride to some of the most beautiful & quiet roads you could ever hope to ride.
I did a local bike tour through this gorgeous area & discovered even more awesome routes & roads, & can get in some great rides now all on my own. I really can't believe that I went from being scared to death of a bicycle to now flying down hills & housing turns like a (semi)pro.
Before the season wound down I decided I wanted to train for the Ride the Rivers Century. A 100 mile bike tour. I still don't know that many cyclists (& most of the ones I know are men) so I went by myself to the ride. I hooked up with a guy & gal that I knew from the Trek ride & stayed with them until the first aid station at around mile 25, then was by myself for a long time. I hooked up with groups for a time & then either passed them or got dropped. I learned a lot about drafting with large groups of guys, which was cool. I just remember trying so hard to keep up with them so I could have someone to draft off of, but we were cruising about 24 mph on the flats & it was very difficult for me. I was spinning my little heart out, & I kept hearing "Come on girl! U gotta work harder than that!" when I was up at the front - stuff like that. It's different riding with men, & it seems like one of two things usually happen: 1) they turn in to hot shots 2) they feel the need to protect me ... ... ... neither of these two scenarios are desirable to me. Also, when drafting, sometimes their over-abundance of sweat can fly back & hit you. Once a random guy's sweat flew into my mouth. Puke! On a side note: one guy I ride with actually puts a Sham-wow in his helmet to absorb the sweat. Gross.
I actually had a (guy) friend that I ride with tell me "What are you doing riding those roads by yourself? I told you to go down "X" road (flat!) & go down to the freeway & back to your house" ummmm kthanks. How is that going to help my fitness or bike handling skills?
Anyway, after the main lunch stop I was thrilled to meet Lisa. Between the 2 of us, & another guy (I forgot his name) we forged onward & drafted off each other since headwinds were brutal. We stayed together till the end of the ride & it was so nice to ride with another woman for a change! I wish there were more of us! Yesterday I rode 50 miles solo & came across plenty of other cyclists, all guys in groups of 3 or more, but only ONE other female. She also was solo... I know there's a lot to think about when deciding to get a bike for cross training purposes or otherwise: 1) Will I actually use it? 2) Will I enjoy it? 3) Can I pull off the spandex? The answer to all three of those questions is YES!!! Truly, if I can do it ANYONE can. Don't let your fear define you. Continue to evolve into the person that God is making you to be. <3