I’ve always labeled myself as the ‘non competitive’ type. Except that I am actually am insanely competitive. With myself. While I usually won’t broadcast my abilities to be awesome at games or sports, on the inside I constantly challenge myself to try something different or to be better than last time. I want to accomplish things, but on my own terms.
Growing up I never had any real emotional connection to riding a bike. It was fun and more importantly I could actually do it, but I never looked at biking as a ‘thing’ people just do for work or play (This, coming from the girl who wanted to be a ballerina until she was 22). I’d never ridden more than a few miles on a bike at once. I’d always had a car I could just hop in and go wherever. Biking for pleasure? pssshh. I doubt it. I had no experience or knowledge of bikes or rides or gears or mechanics either… unless you count “the handle bars steer, the brakes make you stop and the pedals make you go”. Which most people seem not to. And yet, I decided to dive right in…
My first trip was 38 miles for I which wore keds and yoga leggings. I had to use a backpack for water and snacks since my bike didn’t have a rack. I did it. I survived. Luckily the trail was well paved and there were very few hills, but my shoulders were insanely sore the next day and full discloser, I’m pretty sure there are some parts of me that will never be the same again.
I took the next few days off biking to do some much needed resting and researching. After making some investments (can you say padded bike shorts?), finding a bike co-op with good people and a youtube channel full of helpful tips, I felt much more equipped to begin my journey into bike riding. As it turns out, working on a bike is something I actually enjoy. It’s great to see exactly where everything connects and being able to figure out how it all works together.
As for the riding, this fits in perfectly with my own inward competitiveness. In other aspects of my life I know what my limits are and I can reach them or avoid them as necessary. In this new territory however, every long or difficult ride I do is something that seems out of reach physically. It’s the unknown that is scary and tells my brain, “I can’t do it”. My endurance and strength are low in this new activity, and most importantly so is my confidence.
These past few weeks I’ve finished rides I thought would bring me to my end. I was red faced, sweaty, sore and slightly embarrassed at how out of shape I was. But I did it. I may have been in full grandma-gear and I may have been in the back of the pack all day long. But I frickin did it. And in between the water breaks and catching-my-breath-breaks I slowly started looking around and to began to appreciate where I was and what I was doing. I could go farther on a bike than I could walking, but slower than a car to really appreciate what I was experiencing: stunning views on the way up and exhilarating downhill cruises finished off with a larger sense of accomplishment than I’ve felt in years. Riding a bike over long distances and challenging mountains is not just a form of exercise or a means to get from A to B, but a chance to experience the world from a new perspective. Finally arriving at a destination after the intensity of a great bike ride? Nothing beats it.