Today I’m thinking about my upcoming transition from city bike to road bike. I’m anxious, but excited. See, I was not what you would call an active kid. Sure, there was a season of soccer, then one of T-ball, and Dad taught me to ride a bike when I was about seven. But I wasn’t a risk taker, never spent my free time outside, and certainly wasn’t the kind of kid who continued riding a bike regularly after about the age of ten. So, we’re talking a grand total of perhaps three years of childhood riding experience on a white and pink Huffy with streamers.
I was in my early twenties when I decided to do a triathlon, and I did my very first super sprint on a borrowed mountain bike. I think I rode the bike about four times before the race, which featured a completely flat 7 mile course. I decided I wanted to do some more races, so we went out one day and bought a road bike. We had no idea what we were doing, and allowed ourselves to be sold on a frame that was too large. We also had it outfitted with clipless pedals and clip on aerobars, because we had just watched the Olympic triathlon coverage in Athens, and that’s what bikes should look like, right? Such naïveté! I had no business trying to go from zero to sixty like that. Surprise, surprise, I never felt comfortable on that bike and kept it on the indoor trainer as much as possible. If memory serves me right, before my 2007 and 2010 sprint races I took the road bike outside for one or two rides in the weeks before each race.
This is grim, looking back like this. Where is my backbone? Why am I so afraid of everything? Fortunately, I’ve seen several movies like this, and I think I’m just a montage away from overcoming adversity and unleashing the hero that was hiding inside all along!
When discussing with J last year how I wanted to get back into triathlon, my plan was to take some time to focus on each discipline and build up from scratch. Not just from a fitness standpoint, but also looking at necessary skills and fostering a sense of respect. Respecting each discipline and loving it is so important! Otherwise, why bother, right? In light of my past issues with cycling, J suggested getting a more relaxed and casual bike, so I could get comfortable with the idea of simply riding. Not riding fast, not racing…. just enjoying my time on two wheels. The universe must have thought this was a good idea, because a short time later I was having lunch with a friend and she mentioned that she was going to be selling her city bike. Within a matter of weeks I had a new ride: Peggy, a Linus Dutchi 8, featuring a swoopy step through frame and a low-maintenance 8-speed internal hub. She was, in my mind, the perfect steed for getting to and from the farmer’s market.
Cultivating my bike love still took determination. I would come home from work and ride around the neighborhood, where eighteen minutes felt like an eternity for my poor lady bits. Getting going was tricky, and dismounting took plenty of forethought. It took three tries before I had the strength and courage to get up the hills, onto the open streets, and make the trip to the farmer’s market. The whoopie pies from Valentine’s Country Bakery & Meats were my siren song, calling me out of bed on Saturday mornings, and I faithfully pedaled my way to the market most weekends as summer gave way to autumn. Once winter arrived I told myself that if I could happily ride 7.5 miles with 350+ feet of gain on a 40 pound bike full of produce and baked goods, then I was ready for the next step.
So here we are back in the present, ready to make the switch to the road bike. It’s the same old steed: a ten-year-old Diamondback something-or-another that’s a bit too large. On Monday J dropped it off at Bikenetic for a tune-up and a necessary downgrade: installing a set of reversible platform/spd pedals so I have the option of riding without being “glued in place.” The roadie has a more aggressive posture, front and rear derailleurs, and more speed. Some scary thoughts, sure, but ultimately I’m optimistic. After all, back in August, I considered riding to the market scary. It’s humbling to admit what a complete beginner I am, but I need to be honest about where I am right now if I hope to properly measure my improvement. There’s plenty of work ahead for me, and I can’t wait to see what kind of changes and improvements this spring and summer will bring. I’m ready!