Enter, bike

I'm not sure who will be reading this Saturday night -- I rarely have a chance to sit down and write, so I take whatever free moments I can get -- but I wanted to put something out for the record, before I fall into sleep.

Today I rode 50 miles on my bike, the furthest yet this spring. One of my earliest posts on this blog was about cycling, and the sport continues to be one of the greatest sources of joy in my life. In that blog, I said that I would use a later post to write about how I got my bike; I don't believe that I ever followed through on that promise, so here it goes.

I got my road bike about a year and a half ago, shortly after our wedding. My husband was a cyclist in college, and he wanted me to be able to join him on his rides. Whenever we tried to run together as a couple, he was far faster than I was and the run would end up being frustrating to both of us. A bike, it seemed, could ease the gap between our speeds. With some of the cash gifts that we received for our wedding, we set about finding me a bike.

Our first -- and only -- stop was Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, site of a legendary, semi-annual "swap meet" where cyclists and shop owners converge on the Lehigh Valley Velodrome for a day-long bike fair. There, you'll see hundreds of sharp booths run by east-coast bike shops, along with more informal offerings of bike parts and frames scattered here and there across the grass. Chuan was ruthless in his pursuit of my bike. We stuck to our strategy of "bike first, gear second," and raced around from seller to seller looking for a fast road bike in our price range. We ended up buying my bike, a 2006 Fuji Roubaix RC, from a youth "development team" that had been sponsored by Fuji the year before and was selling their old bikes to make way for the new set that they would receive.

After I got my bike, the rest of the swap meet passed by in a frenzy. Chuan and I ran around looking to "gear me up," that is, to get me properly equipped to actually ride the bike. We bought a helmet, bike shorts, a jersey and a jacket, cycling gloves, a computer to track my speed and pace, water bottle racks, and a "trainer" so that I could ride my bike indoors in the winter. I knew next to nothing about bikes, other than that I had always known how to ride one, and I was amazed at the enthusiasm of the other cyclists that day, whether they were buying or selling equipment. I felt like I was gaining entry into a community, the community of serious cyclists. Strange people they were, and yet I liked this feeling of entering a sport, of being on the cusp of something new in my life.

We bought the bike in October of 2007; four cold months followed before I started to ride my bike outdoors. Last spring I taught myself the basics of road cycling, riding early in the mornings and occasionally on the weekends with Chuan. This year I want to go deeper with my riding, and I have joined the New York Cycling Club. On a whim, I decided to do their A Classic training group, meaning that every Saturday for the next three months you will find me on my bike in some remote New Jersey, Connecticut, or Westchester County roads. Today it was 50 miles around the New Jersey suburbs; next week it will be a longer ride to White Plains, New York, until we eventually work our way up to a "Century" -- a hundred mile ride!

It is especially meaningful to me to be able to join a new sport at this point in my life, after having recovered from an eating disorder several years ago. Looking back, I could never have done this sport when I was actively bulimic -- or any other sport for that matter. Honestly, I would not have been strong enough, and my obsession with food and exercise would probably have hindered, not helped, any training efforts. It is very rewarding to see that now, having changed so many of my behaviors towards food and exercise, I am at last able to participate in a sport for its own sake. What freedom!

As Susan B. Anthony said:

I'll tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.


Kristina said...

I love reading this post about biking because I'm tentatively getting "into" the sport. I used to run, but my knees have just given up on me (particularly after a skiing accident), and cycling seemed like a fun, outdoorsy sport. However, I'm still not overly confident ON the bike - or getting off the bike (that still trips me up). But it is my goal to find a cycling club within the next few months and become more comfortable and confident.
So, thank you for sharing your experience and the Susan B. Anthony quote.

Ai Lu said...

Hi, Kristina:

I'm glad to hear that this post resonated with you! I highly recommend biking as a sport and I hope that you can find some good people to ride with in your area. I don't know where you live, but I was recently helping my sister to locate groups in the San Francisco area, and was surprised to see how many options she had; I'm sure that other cities of comparable size have similar recreational groups. The good thing about joining a cycling club is that the other riders can teach you a lot about cycling -- it's like getting free lessons!

Are you using shoes that clip directly onto your pedals? Those can be a trick to get used to; I suggest practicing clipping in and out indoors or against a railing outdoors, before very gradually starting to do some loops around your neighborhood. I taught my sister to use her clips last year, and we did it just that way. Before long, she was using them confidently.

Good luck!
Ai Lu

Gaining Back My Life said...

What a beautiful and well told story. We take the simplest things for granted, yet this recollection proves that is not always true.

Thank you for sharing.

Emily Jolie said...

Dear Ai Lu,

It's wonderful to read about the pleasure that riding your bike brings you and how you approach the sport with such a healthy, non-ED mindset.

I hope you are doing well, my dear, and that life is full and filling for you these days!

Your post brings back memories of riding my bike all over the German countryside when I was a kid. So beautiful! Getting on my bike and just riding - with no particular destination in mind - was always a wonderful way for me to clear my head as a teen. I was blessed to live in such a beautiful area to be able to do so. Green, rolling hills, lakes... just beautiful.

I hope you are enjoying a bright and sunny Sunday - inside and out!

with love,