“I want to be one of those!” Chelsey thought admiringly, enjoying the visual distraction of a cyclist’s strong legs pedaling alongside the road. An accomplished runner and young woman of thirty, Chelsey hadn’t ridden a bike since she was a teenager. “It looked fun and, to be completely honest, cyclists’ bodies look amazing!”
She had heard from several clients at work about “Meetup.com”, a social networking site that facilitates neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something… and decided to explore its cycling options. She found a series of bike rides labeled, “Ride Like A Girl” posted on the Northwest Butts on Bikes Meetup calendar. The descriptions sounded welcoming, designed for women only, and were scheduled on her day off – so she set her mind to give it a try.
Soon Chelsey was on her way to her first Ride Like A Girl event. With her hybrid bicycle mounted on the back of her Jeep, she accelerated onto the highway. Her thoughts pondered the possibilities of this unfamiliar experience she was about to step into. Images of stylishly-dressed, seasoned cyclists with beautiful legs and fancy road bikes with turned-down handle bars stoked feelings of inadequacy. Like kids released from class into a school yard, unbridled thoughts raced through her mind, developing into an ominous “Future-tripping” session of fear and anxiety. Chelsey, now in a state of complete nervousness, thought with eyes widened, “What am I doing?!!!”
Her husband, Dan, tossed her an emotional life ring of encouragement, “You will be just fine. If it doesn’t work out, you never have to go back.” His voice over the cell phone helped to settle her floundering thoughts, but not completely as she considered, “I don’t even know if my bike is on the bike rack correctly or exactly how to get it off when I get there!” Visions of her bike dislodging from the jeep and crashing onto the highway replayed in her mind like a slow-motion video stuck on ‘repeat’. “I was such a beginner,” she later recalls, “I didn’t know what I was doing!”
In spite of herself, Chelsey arrived (with bike intact) at the meeting location thirty minutes early. It was raining. She spotted the only other person in the parking lot, a woman sitting in her car. A road bike with turned-down handle bars hung off the back of it. “Oh my gosh – I am in over my head!” But Chelsey gathered her courage and approached the car with the perfect bike. Knock, knock on the car door window brought a smiling invitation from soon-to-be friend, Sheri, who asked her to come in and get out of the rain. The next fifteen minutes Sheri talked Chelsey down from the proverbial ledge with a second dose of encouragement, “You’re going to be fine”. Echoes of hubby’s voice resound…
Today, Chelsey rides a new road bike (with turned down handle bars!) and is working with a group of friends to further develop her cycling skills. Learning how and when to shift gears is her current focus, along with learning how to climb a hill. If you spot her on the road, you might even see hubby, Dan, tagging along with her on his new bike! Thank you, Chelsey, for letting me tell your story 🙂
I wonder how many “Chelseys” there are in Portland?
- Women who know how to ride but haven’t done it in a very long time.
- Women who look admiringly upon other cyclists who make it look so easy.
- Women who struggle with anxiety when it comes to trying it and question if they will fit in when they show up with their twenty-five year old Schwinn.
- Women who may have never said it out loud but find themselves thinking, “I want to be one of those!”
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