Some people don’t like riding bikes. My mother was one of these people — I never once saw her on a bicycle. I can’t say I blame these people necessarily — learning to ride a bike is when a lot of us first realize our parents are capable of lying. How many times has a child heard, “I’ve got you,” only to turn around and realize that in fact he or she was alone, propelled down a wide open sidewalk?
It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out how to ride a bicycle without training wheels. I couldn’t see the use of it for the longest time, even though my younger brother had already mastered the task. Eventually, and with much convincing, I did learn.
When I was growing up, my dad would ask my sister and me at bedtime if we wanted to join him for a bike ride in the morning. He would get us up early and we’d put on our helmets and tennis shoes and go around the neighborhood with him. It was good fun, and it usually meant we got to have cookies or some other sweet treat early in the morning after our ride.
But as we all got older, these rides got few and far between. My dad eventually bought a proper road bike and still spends his mornings going around the neighborhood, but it was never something I ever thought I’d get into — I was happy to go for a morning or evening run instead.
About two years ago, however, my group of friends started getting really into road biking. They would talk about the best brands and their most recent rides. The way they talked about it made it sound like good fun. I talked it over with the Herald Democrat’s photographer Chris Jennings, who also enjoys and excels at the hobby, and he helped encourage me to get into it.
Just like the first time I learned to ride a bike, it took a lot of encouragement and convincing, but as of January, I became the proud owner of a red carbon fiber Schwinn I named Rosie, so named because she’s red and has pedals. So far, I’ve only fallen once, and it wasn’t that much of a tumble — only a minor scrape, but enough to make me invest in some cycling gloves to make sure my hands were protected next time around.
In fact, cycling gear tends to accumulate the longer you own a bike. First was the helmet, then came the special cycling shoes, followed by first one jersey, then another. I waited a good bit of time before getting biking shorts, but I don’t know why I didn’t get them sooner because they literally save my rear.
And then my friends all started talking about a bike rally they wanted to go to in Muenster. And as all the guys signed up and I realized I was the newest biker and the only girl in my friend group to sign up, I became terrified. I’m a pretty competitive person, and I couldn’t stand the idea of not being able to do the ride (a 35K for me, or 22 miles) because of my inexperience.
So I started riding, and then I rode longer and harder after my good buddy Chris told me the hills in Muenster meant business.
Boy, he wasn’t kidding.
This past Saturday was the ride, and I felt nowhere near prepared, but as ready as I could be. The weather threatened rain all day, which meant as the hills got close to 90-degree angles (maybe I’m exaggerating) the wind constantly attempted to push us back down the other direction.
When we finally reached the first rest area 11 miles in, those doing the 35K were supposed to turn around and those doing the 65K, everyone else in my group, turned right to keep riding.
The ride back was great, even though I was the only one from my group. Another group of cyclists also doing the 35K adopted me, and the way back was mostly downhill. Without struggling so much, I was able to look up some more at the rolling fields around me and the European chateau off in the distance. Muenster really is beautiful.
I practically flew back the rest of the 11 miles, with the wind not fighting against me the whole way. I increased my average speed to 13.4 miles per hour and I was really pleased with that.
Although he’s been riding much longer than I have, my dad’s never done a rally. So now my next goal is to do one with him — maybe after I get a little faster so I won’t slow him down too badly either. I’m looking forward to it.
May is National Bike Month, and I really encourage all those who are on the fence, like I was, about getting into biking, or even just biking more often, to go for it. There are other good ways to exercise, but none of them have the “Whee” factor that comes with riding on a bicycle.