Ride Like A Girl: Make it Your Ride
By Sarah Hubbard
One of the conversations I most often have here in the shop is about riding bikes and how dangerous it is - mountain bikes in particular. Most people when I ask them how they plan to ride they respond by telling me they are not going to do anything “crazy”. I always laugh at this and respond with, “So, you’re not looking to be on RedBull Rampage right now, that’s cool. How do you want to ride? What do you want to accomplish?” I also may add - depending on the individual - that what’s “crazy” is subjective.
I am by no means a speedster on my bike. I certainly don’t ride the RedBull Rampage kind of crazy. I prefer to keep both wheels on the ground when I ride. Truth is, I am more of a slow and steady, feel the breeze, listen to the birds, take pretty pictures kind of cyclist. I love few things more than the downhill descent that follows a challenging climb - irregardless of what type of terrain I am on. I jokingly respond when asked what I ride that I identify as a Mountain Biker, but I really love Gravel and Road as well.
I get off my bike and walk without too much shame when I need to. I am old enough to know where my limits are. I do not ride my bike to prove to others that I’m cool or the most awesome. I ride a bike because it brings me joy. If it isn’t doing that then it isn’t worth doing - at least for me.
When I was young I rode my bike all the time. It was where I found freedom. So much so that my parents had a custom 10speed Schwinn built for me when I was a tween. In College I had a mountain bike I rode a fair amount. As I became a mom daily life took over and biking became a thing I once did - not something I do ‘now’. Thankfully, a few years ago I had a dear friend put the pressure on - relentlessly - to just get back on my bike. Just like my customers my number one excuse was fear - fear that I would get hurt. Fear that I would be the slowest rider dragging everyone else down. She kept asking. She definitely knew something about me I didn’t. I finally caved in and now here we are. I have too many bikes. Practically one for every day. I’m always scheming rides, adventures, and bike upgrades.
Here at the shop I do my best to get people on bikes they will love and want to ride - every single day.
When I first started riding, I was insecure about riding with other people - let’s be honest I still am. However, meeting up with friends in the woods or out on the open road is just the best. It’s like being 12 years old on my Royal Blue custom Schwinn chasing the wind in my hair. What I did not expect when I came back to cycling was the desire to be stronger, to go further, and to go harder while overcoming my fears - but on my own terms. I am fragile. I do not like to get hurt - no one does. Life experience, however, has taught me that from time to time crashing is a side effect of simply riding - or being alive - irregardless of whether I am doing something 'crazy' or not.
Determining my limits on my bike is up to me and no one else.
These days, I push my bike when I need to go over sections of a trail I’m not sure I can confidently ride. When I do, in my mind I still look for my line choice and think about how I’m going to tackle it sometime in the future. I may not be riding it, but I am considering how I could. I am still putting in the work to grow as a rider. I try my best to hold this mindset that where I am is enough so that biking stays fun for me..
With some effort, I have also accepted I am probably not going to be as fast or as strong as the dudes in my life - not and be safe. In the wise words of Dr Stacy Sims, “Women are not small men.” I do not have to be on par with them. I am a 46 year old woman. I ride my mountain bike several times a week. Sometimes over some seriously sketchy terrain. I embrace hard things and get out there. Most importantly I do my best. That is sufficient for me. I get stronger every ride. In my heart and in my mind.
Why am I sharing all this with you?
Because it is part of the journey we call life.
Riding bikes is super fun.
It is also hard work.
It is overcoming the physical obstacles - the hills, the root step, or maybe even the drop.
It is also overcoming yourself - the belief that it’s too hard or that you do not have what it takes to get over that mountain or even up that hill in your neighborhood. I promise you do. If I do. You definitely do. You just have to be willing to keep trying while making it fun for yourself.
Biking makes you stronger. Healthier. Hopefully Happier. Make your ride your experience. Your friends and family probably don’t care how fast or daring you are. I really doubt they care whether you are a RedBull Rampage Superstar or not. Just get out there, do your best, and have fun. So what if you have to walk or push your bike? At least you are having an experience and living your life under your own terms. Let that be what carries you through and into the next ride.
I hope to see you out there. I will be the rider in the back with the red face breathing heavy, but smiling brightly.