With everyone sound asleep I leave the house at 6am. The streets are mostly still. I rely on the bike light as I cycle towards trendy Beach Road. The only sound is the changing of my gears against the backdrop of birds singing the world awake. It’s Saturday morning and I’m avoiding bunches who usually start at seven. I figure if I’m out early I can ride quietly and not be overwhelmed by numbers.
As I roll to a stop, giving way to a small group barreling down the road, the silence is shattered by the sound of each rider saying good morning. I look around to see if there are others behind me. No, it’s just me. I’m taken aback by their friendliness and impressed they can even speak at the speed they’re going.
This is how my day begins, riding beside the ocean with the sun rising and the sound of the cyclists all wishing me well as they fly on by. Yeah kind of shows you how fast I am not going. There is something about it, almost intangible as I peddle along, that is pulling at me with each greeting. There is a kindness in such a simple gesture. There are some who don’t say a thing as they pass but the ones who make the effort impress me. It doesn’t take much and it creates a connection, even just for that moment. Reminds that I am not alone. I feel happy.
I am seeing connection everywhere these days. Worlds opening up. The support has been incredible and the enthusiasm for a woman getting on a bike is second to none. I’ve been out riding with a couple of different women’s groups, learning skills and increasing fitness. There has been nothing but encouragement, and a lot of laughter.
As a side note, how awesome are some of the clothing kits. Wild. Just quietly I don’t mind a six foot man in lycra. Am I allowed to admit that? Now I’m a lycra girl with nowhere to hide. However, here is a tip, you should never refer to Rapha as Ralph in the bike store, it stops conversation. No need to thank me.
Back to my new efforts, most of my life I have suffered from black and white thinking, my mind doesn’t seem to like the middle ground. To my credit, through the years I have learned to see when this polarized mindset kicks in and to ignore the initial cognitive assessment. This was once again evident when I borrowed a 17-year-old bike from a friend to see if cycling was a hit before I brought myself one. Gosh if Sister Lorraine and Father Michael could see me now, so sensible.
This borrowed bike was the clip-in-your-shoe-on-the-pedal kind so that took some getting used to. Yep I took a few falls. My shins, hips and hands covered in bruises for a good few weeks. Ouch. I’m glad one my cycling friends gave me the heads up about not unclipping fast enough. He laughed twice, first when he warned me that falling over was all part of learning and all riders do it. Thanks buddy. I didn’t feel so stupid when it happened. And again. And again. And secondly, he was amused when I reported in with each fall but he also tempered his response with be safe out there, and seriously, what about a bike path? Now that was a good idea.
Three falls in fact, each with embarrassment written all over them. One was outside a building site, and yeah you can imagine. My last one was on a two-laned main road. I had traffic behind me, I timed the turn really well, coaching myself in my head, you’ve got this G and then some pedestrians stepped out onto the road. I needed to stop suddenly and couldn’t unclip fast enough. Yep, I just fell sideways, in what felt like slow motion, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. I happened to be wearing bright pink so you couldn’t miss the chick cyclist falling. What was I saying about wild kits?
As I lay there humiliated with cars and trucks stopped behind me, that black and white thinking kicked in. Blow this, I quit, it’s too hard and I do not know what I’m meant to be doing. I pulled myself up, utterly frustrated, and limped off the road to safety with the voice of a kind driver asking if I was alright. I wanted to scream back I’m not alright, this was a stupid idea but I forced a smile and thanked her for asking. My thoughts continued to swirl, why wasn’t I getting this cycling gig? Surely at 46 this is just a ridiculous undertaking! Um, hello girl, you’ve been on this bike for two weeks, on your own. Get help. Sometimes I annoy myself with missing the obvious.
Now weeks on, yes it’s still early days, I’m riding my new bike, it’s a brilliant red by the way, and that help continues to arrive. I have joined a cycling club that runs an awesome beginners group. You know that means more rowdy kit. Facing my fears, I’m learning the skill of riding in a bunch and meeting so many great people. The polarized thinking has relaxed a little now that I am not on my own. I have a couple of cyclist friends who have been so generous in riding with me, and teaching me how to ride safely and confidently on the roads, and cycling paths (yes I took that suggestion on board too).
On my first beginners bunch ride, an older gentleman with the kindest demeanor rode beside me for a time. He asked if he could give me some advice, sweet. Sure, I said. He told me that my bike was my friend, it wanted to help me so how about you stop strangling the handlebars, and relax your shoulders a little. He had me laughing. He was right. I was murdering them with tension.
Now when I ride I have his calm voice in my head. It has been like that with each person who has taken the time to help me. I am grateful I didn’t quit on that last fall, and my next goal is to climb Mt Buffalo, and a few others (wink, wink) before I head to Europe mid-year to hike. Hopefully, I might be able to meet up with others and tackle a mountain or two on a bike. I wonder if there is a kit for that?