Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Slow Ride Reflections

A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked if I would want to go on a bike ride sometime with her. I was excited about the opportunity because I don't actually have many friends who ride. She shared that she often gets left behind when her husband wants to go, and just wanted to have a fun ride. She's fairly new to cycling (she's had a bike for a couple of decades, but hasn't really been on her bike until this summer), but I have to admit I was thrilled to have an opportunity to ride with someone. When I hadn't heard from her by the end of the following week, I decided to send a message asking if she still wanted to get together for a ride. She responded by stating that she was ready for the following day, and because we are both involved in kickboxing we decided to meet up after class and go for our joy ride.

As we were leaving class she said, "You know, I'm kind of intimidated to ride with you." I laughed (Mostly because I was thinking, "Who in the world would be intimidated to ride with me, the snail of the cycling world?"), but she continued on. "I was telling my husband that you just rode a century and he said, 'She's not going to want to ride with you!'" I assured her that I was in no hurry to get anywhere and that I actually enjoy a nice, leisurely ride around town - it just rarely seems to happen when I'm training for a specific goal. She had a couple of questions about her bike and shoes, so we chatted as we started to ride.

The pace was leisurely and enjoyable as we headed out on a multi-use trail. We spoke about cycling, spouses, art (she happens to be a great local artist), and kickboxing. It was a short, but lovely ride.

As I dropped my friend at her home and rode on alone, I reflected on what cycling has become for me, and the reality that the cycling world has forever changed because of a cruiser bicycle given as a gift just a few years ago - well, about 4 years ago, to be more exact. I am amazed at the transformation that has taken place and I sometimes wonder who I have become. Four years ago, I wouldn't have touched anything that wasn't an extremely upright bicycle. Three years ago I couldn't dream of owning a bike made of anything other than steel. Two years ago I wouldn't have thought I'd be using drop bars on a regular basis, and a year ago I wouldn't have believed I'd ever be riding a century, let alone two within a matter of weeks of each other.

I have wondered in the past if it's possible to go back and have the same feelings I once had about a particular bicycle... even going so far as to re-purchase a bike I once loved (I've done this twice, actually - because I'm apparently not bright enough to figure it out at the first time). It only ended in disappointment because I found the bike no longer met my needs in my shifting style-of-cycling world. I don't believe that one world is better than the other, but more that things have just changed and adjusted. Some would say I've "evolved" into a "real" cyclist, but I think I was always a cyclist who just preferred one style of riding over another. There have been changes, certainly, and I'm sure they will continue as life moves forward, but I definitely don't feel more evolved than I did at the start of my cycling journey.

For now, I'm enjoying the opportunity to engage in what to some may seem like opposite types of riding, knowing that through all of the changes, ultimately I remain the same person. I'd still rather just cruise around town at slow speeds, checking out the world going by, running errands, and enjoying the seasons, but perhaps now I'm just a bit more game for a long road ride, or a quicker self-race to see what I can accomplish. Whether a slow or fast ride, on a cruiser or a lightweight road bike, I'm happy to have gone through the journey I've experienced and wouldn't change it for anything.

5 comments:

  1. An interesting article from an e-newsletter I receive.

    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/08/bike-share-may-be-one-key-closing-cycling-gender-gap/6580/

    Some of the comments on the article are amazing.

    After reading the article, tongue-in-cheek, I asked a female co-worker if she road her bike into work that day. She said no, she didn't want to have to put on "bike clothes". I responded that there is a movement afoot in the US to go a more European route and not try to do all our cycling in lycra and with road cleats. She said sure, but you still need to do something so your pant leg does not get caught in the chain. I said some bikes these days actually have chain guards. She thinks I am crazy. She may be right.

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    1. I've read a similar article at some point in the last year (though I honestly cannot find it at the moment to link it here). I always think it's sad that women (or anyone for that matter) feel unsafe on the roads. With anything we do in a given day there is risk - sometimes greater risk depending on the activity. I have had very rare occasions during which I was actually afraid to ride because of traffic, but those are few and far between (for me - and I certainly don't speak for all the females of the world). However, I also live in a somewhat small community that has a lot of bike lanes and quieter streets to get around. I can honestly say, I don't think I've ever been afraid while riding at a slower pace.

      Now, road biking is another story. There are plenty of articles about women riding in every day clothes and drivers being kinder and providing more room to them on the roads. When I'm dressed for a long ride and on the "fast bike," I can see and feel the differences with drivers. They are a lot less patient, forgiving, and so on. It's fascinating, but at times, a bit scary. Particularly so because we seem to have somewhat frequent reports of cyclist dying on the roads at the hands of vehicle drivers.

      That said, I'm not afraid to ride, and I don't want to live a life in fear of what may or may not happen. All I can do is make myself visible, be safe and remain constantly aware of my surroundings.

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    2. G.E., I agree with you. It's good women and all cyclists have sources like your blog to learn what to expect and how to be prepared - before they encounter the school of hard knocks.

      I used to commute from the CBD out to the suburbs. I noticed drivers became less considerate and careful around cyclists the minute I crossed the city limit boundary. It was quite a stark contrast once you entered the land of the automobile. That said, the two times I was hit by cars were both in the city.

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  2. I'm trying to convince a friend of mine to come on a slow ride with me. It's so hard for people to understand that riding slow can actually fun. I explained to her that sometimes I just like to go slow so that I can take time to enjoy my surroundings - not to mention that it makes it easier to talk with your companions. I like to ride faster sometimes, but I would be very very sad if I couldn't also ride slowly at other times.

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    1. I'll ditto those sentiments. It's great to just be able to ride - sometimes for no reason at all.

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