November 28, 2022

Ride Like a Girl: Last Girl Standing

To be last or to not to be.

And, being okay when I am last.

Some days on the bike I just bonk and don’t have a good day.

Some days, I choose to be last.

I am generally not what you would call fast.  I am, however, pretty energetically efficient when I am on my bike.  I feel like I manage my energy pretty well on bike rides.  I usually plan my take “risks” rides - like the nights I choose to go over logs.. or my go a little harder or longer rides when I throw in a couple of extra climbs or technical trail sections.

Depending on who I am riding with I get to make the decision of how I want to ride and then fall into line in just the right spot.  This is a benefit of riding with people you develop a community with.  You know how they ride.  They know how you ride. Everyone naturally gets into the right position for them and you have a great ride.

I seem to fall to the back.  Mostly because I am a fairly cautious rider.  In relation to the general public some of the risks I take are crazy for a woman my age, but.. you know, you can’t take the spunk out of a girl.

I like riding behind other riders who have more skills than me because I can watch them.

I can learn from them.

It is common knowledge on most rides I go on that the person in the back is working the hardest.  Group rides usually get a little spread out - especially in mountain biking.. and as soon as you show up everyone else has rested and it is time to go again.

What is this thing you people call a rest/beer stop???

And if they don’t jump on and get after it you are the individual that they are all waiting on to be ready to go again.  It feels like the pressure is on to get your water, to get your breath and communicate to the lead that you are ready to roll again.  Everyone is waiting on you.

Are you breathing as heavy as me yet?

I am not always last.  But, when I am, I have to be okay with it.  Deep down I know it pushes me to work harder and more efficiently. 

More importantly I also grow as a rider. 

Very rarely do I encounter a ride where my slower more cautious pace is an issue for the front of the group.  Very rarely do I arrive back to the group and have someone annoyed that they have to wait for me to catch up.  Most always the people I am with are just happy to be on their bikes too.  They don’t mind waiting for me.  If they did, they wouldn’t invite me to ride. But, I do worry - I think most of us do.

On particularly tough rides these fleeting moments of insecurity are some of the hardest I have on the bike.  Desperately wanting to keep up and not feeling "able to" or "not" having the skills “like everyone else." Or being weak which is probably the biggest gremlin I carry around in my head. This all keeps me on my emotional and physical edge.  This type of soul work is so good for me and it is why I ride a bike.  It is also why I keep showing up.

It’s great to be first and the work it takes to get there is so worth it, but remember that the person in the front was also once the person in the back.  They also probably haven’t always been the rider they are today.  It takes work, practice, and time.

I will be last or I will gladly wait for you if we ride together.  We have all been there.  Better to be last than on the couch and not on the bike.

Sarah Hubbard