At 40, I’ve found my inner cyclist and nothing can keep me away from my bike and the open road. I ride daily as my passion for this new sport demands it. I am, at this pivotal age, just now finding my inner athlete and the profundity of two wheels, two legs, and a crash helmet has me soaring.
What I adore about cycling is its accessibility to all shapes, sizes, and physical fitness levels. Cycling offers an even playing field and a physical metaphor for any person to choose to begin what they dream and to begin it now.
In the mode that life imitates art and art imitates life; I also see that cycling (and perhaps any athletic endeavor) also imitates life and life reflects cycling. Through my exploration as a cyclist I’m learning exactly how:
Stow Your Gear: that includes your pants leg. Mountain bikes will eat your pants leg for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and for a snack in between. Battening the hatches and tying your gear down makes you 1) aware of your gear and 2) more likely to arrive at your destination with everything intact. This truth follows in our lives regardless of our mode of transportation. If we travel light on our feet or in an RV travel with a conscious eye to your ‘stuff.’ And while we will jettison some along the way, be aware of how you do so. Are you littering your life and others? Or have you successfully composted it? Life’s detritus, more commonly known as ‘our baggage’ has a time and place to be good and done and we have a responsibility to dispose of it properly.
Shift Gears: constantly as the terrain and our strength varies. Like in life, we aren’t riding the interstate most of the time and life requires us to adjust our speed and approach. Whether it’s smooth asphalt or a dusty, rocky terrain the gears offer a tangible way to interact with the bike, the terrain, and myself. As I become a stronger cyclist I’m reaching for gears that were only a dream when I began riding. These new gears allow me to engage the road and myself differently. My approach to the road is more confident. My increased strength has opened an avenue into paths only eyed warily before. I access more roads, higher hills, and steeper descents as a result of knowing how to shift gears appropriately and with more expertise. Oh, and if you are riding the interstate of life, get off at the next exit, wake up, and connect with your road.
Explore the terrain: check your attention and your speed when you do. When I tested two mountain bikes prior to purchase I navigated my concrete jungle (including a short stair way) over curbs and rocks and other city obstacles to test the ‘mountainyness’ of each. The first bike clung to my direction with responsiveness and verve. The second one, even though I noticed that I didn’t have as much control, I cycled the same route anyway and promptly crashed (hard) coming off the stairs. With bruises in places I didn’t know I could bruise and a vivid imprint of the chain mechanism on my right calf. . . . I realized that exploration is great, but I was going to get hurt. Caution can keep you, but curiosity is the cat’s meow. I was proud of those bruises and my willingness to get them by falling down knowing that I would stand up again.
Be Seen: cars and even pedestrians don’t necessarily see you since most of them are in their own world otherwise known as autopilot. Being noticed is a cyclist’s co-pilot and the solution is to “light up” and to “reflect up.” From reflectors on your bike and your gear (such as a reflector vest or reflector strips on your backpack), actively combating the ‘sleeping while awake’ world is vital. Maybe you nudge someone else awake long enough to save your life or maybe you jerk someone awake where they stay that way. Either way lighting up and reflecting is an act of compassion for you and for the sleepwalkers. For even at the end of the day, you cannot control their awareness, but you can control yours. Being awake through life is far more interesting than on cruise control.
Passion is Fuel: I started biking with my cruiser which is a massive tooling around bike with double baskets and a bell. When I started seriously riding i.e. looking for errands so I could get on my bike the passion had its own mission. From choosing to return borrowed movies to a friend so I could get two more miles in tonight even though I was visiting with them tomorrow to cycling out of the grocery store, because “oops! I forgot something,” that could have easily stayed forgotten. I road miles and miles on this heavy bike with quads burning and heart pumping, but nothing – not even the discomfort could stop me from riding. My passion for this sport took root inside of me and all I wanted to do was ride.
For me, the journey I’m taking as a new cyclist is mirroring the journey I’m beginning as a women powering up into what I know will be some of the most outstanding years of my life. Hail 40!
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