The journey of three women’s entrance into cycling.
Meet Evy, Linda, and Sheri, three women who entered the world of cycling through Ride Like A Girl. Until last April, not one of them had mounted the saddle of a bike in 3-10 years. They were cycling newbies and self-proclaimed “Nervous Nellies.” With their permission, I am sharing their stories in the form of a conversational interview we had over coffee at the Urban Grind in Northwest Portland. First, let me introduce them to you.
Linda is a petite woman with a distinct Michigan accent. As one who loves the outdoors, she quickly came to love all the beauty and panorama of the Pacific Northwest. She is a real estate assistant by day and a quilter by night. Before she joined RLAG, she and her husband rode only recreationally with their two daughters when they were young (now twenty-somethings).
Evy is a retired postmaster who currently teaches yoga part time. Despite her quiet demeanor, she brings a tenacity to the sometimes-uncomfortable learning process. If everyone approached their learning experiences like Evy, the world would have many more smart, skilled people. It had been at least three years since she had been on a bike prior to RLAG.
Sheri is a poised professional with a welcoming smile. A proud grandma of five who also owns her own executive coaching business. She also trains and mentors other coaches. Prior to joining RLAG, she had not ridden for “many, many years.”
Scroll down to view the entire 11-question interview or click on any of the following links to jump to the question you are most interested in.
- What made you want to take up biking?
- Was the “women-only” part of RLAG important to you?
- How would you describe your fitness level when you started?
- Did the season kick-off event help you make the decision to join RLAG?
- Do you remember your first ride?
- Why did you come back for a second ride?
- Do you recall a turning point when you began feeling more confident?
- Fast-forward to the end of the season, seven months later. What did you walk away with?
- Now that you have been cycling most of the year, what is ahead? What are your 2014 Goals?
- What encouragement or advice would you give a woman who is still unsure about Ride Like A Girl?
- Any final thoughts you would like to share?
——–The entire interview begins here———–
Sheri: I like to walk and hike and do yoga, but I wanted something new. One of my friends said, ‘Sheri, you should try biking. It is fun, very social, and there is great biking in Portland.’ One day I saw the notice for a beginner riding group, “Ride Like A Girl”, and I thought ‘This is what I need – I need a group, I need women, and I need a leader.'”
Evy: I wanted to have some social activities. I looked up biking and came across the [NW Butts on Bikes] website and thought ‘This is just what I need – Beginner pace and a beginner group that is social.’ So I dragged my bike out of the garage.”
Linda: There is so much beauty in Oregon and I realized that I wasn’t seeing all of it. I used to be a runner, but my knees can no longer take it. I’m an avid walker, and I wanted to see and do more but was afraid to bike on my own. I tend to be quiet… . Social things scare me, but this was a beginner group. It was all-women … and it seemed like a good time to start.
Linda: It was a big factor! I had competed with men in swimming and in other areas. They are too competitive … . If you’re not able to keep up with them, you’re dropped – No thanks! I don’t want to compete with men, I want to ride with other women who are starting off like I am.
Evy: I didn’t want to ride with men; I figured that would be too intense. I thought a women’s group would be more supportive.
Sheri: If it had been men and women beginners that would have been fine with me.
Linda: I’m an avid walker and walk my dogs every day. In my youth I used to swim, but that’s not who I am now. I didn’t know if I had the endurance or the strength [to bike]. I had not graced a gym in years.
Evy: My fitness level was okay. I teach yoga, but as far as cycling, I was definitely not in cycle shape. I have some endurance … . I just had to learn how to ride.
Sheri: I was in fairly good shape; walking; practicing yoga. My daughter took me to a spin class a few years ago, and I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t do one tenth of what the others were doing.
Sheri: I was committed to start biking … it just confirmed it for me.
Evy: I wasn’t committed; it was a come-and-see. I wanted to check it out … . After the first ride I felt way more comfortable… . And after a few rides I thought, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’
Linda: I agree, check it out, see what it is … and if it is within my comfort zone. I don’t go out of my comfort zone. [I was afraid] of falling, and second, being left behind because I am not fast. When I heard that no one is left behind … I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll go to the first [ride] and see if that’s really true.’
Evy: The first ride I went to was in North Portland, and I was really nervous about being on the road. We weren’t actually on the road but along the road, and even that was intimidating. I was wondering if I could keep up … I wondered what it would be like to ride in a group and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Linda: I was extremely nervous… . I was completely out of my comfort zone. I was nervous about getting on the bike! ‘Do I remember how to pedal? Do I remember how to shift?’ I remember standing there thinking, ‘I’m nuts! What am I doing?’
Sheri: I was very nervous and anxious. I did not know anybody. I was really out on a limb to come all by myself. I got there early and I didn’t even know how to shift [the gears]. That was the first time on my road bike, and I knew nothing.
Linda: The fears in my head were not being realized. There were other women like me who are newbies … just getting their feet wet. The first time, everyone was friendly and welcoming. I met a woman, Elizabeth, and we were talking quilting. It made the 7-mile ride fly by in no time! I was always in the back, but I never felt left out.
Evy: Because the first ride felt successful, I felt like ‘I can do this.’ It was fun and the group felt supportive and it was great to just get on your bike and be outside – that was freedom! I wanted to come back and do more. It just got better and better.
Sheri: It was like a little window had opened up and I could see, ‘Okay, I can do this.’ You, [Carolyn] were so supportive, I knew I was in good hands. I felt safe and it was fun to be with other women that were just beginning. It felt good, felt like an accomplishment.
Linda: The Springwater Trail was the furthest I had [biked]. I realized I could ride 18 miles and still feel good and enjoy it. Have I come to the point that I am at ease? No, because with each step I am doing something new. But I want the bar to raise. I question, ‘Can I do this? Can I keep up?’ And then I get going and I realize, ‘Yes, I can do this! Why am I so nervous? ‘
Evy: When we went to Hood River and did the Road to Mosier, there were some hills … I was still on my mountain bike but I felt, ‘I can do it!‘ That made me feel more confident.
Sheri: I don’t remember an exact time … but after a couple of months I [found myself] really looking forward to the rides. I was excited, and if I had to miss, I was so disappointed. I loved it. Even if I was still a little nervous about this or that, I knew that once I was there, I would be fine and have a great time.
Linda: Confidence! Confidence that I could ride. Confidence that I could learn new things.
Evy: Learning, definitely. Learning how to ride, safety tips, what is legal and not legal, how to ride in a group. I found myself at the end of the season wanting to keep going.
Sheri: Lots of confidence was the big take-away! And learning so many technical and safety things, like riding in a group. I learned about eating too. The one [ride] we did in Vancouver I had not eaten right in the morning and I got dehydrated and I didn’t feel good afterward for a [of] couple hours. I learned I need to have a good meal with lots of protein in the morning.
In unison, all three women responded, ‘Reach the Beach!’ (This is an annual cycling event where roughly 3,000 cyclists ride together from either Portland, Newberg, Amity, or Grand Ronde – all biking to a common finish line in the small coastal town of Pacific City, OR.)
Sheri: Look how far we have progressed! I want to get stronger. I still need to figure out how to go faster.
Linda: I want to learn to ride my new [road] bike. I am confident, but there is so much I have to learn. I want to get out there and ride … [I remember] being out in Hillsboro, turning a corner and there was Mount Hood … . ‘Wow, this is beautiful !’ … or the Coastal range when you have the vineyards in front of you!
Evy: I want to learn to ride my [new] bike better.
Linda: I would say to her, come and talk with someone who participated last year. If she misses the event, talk to Carolyn. You are not committing to the group. You are saying, ‘I want to try this step.’ Don’t miss it because you are shy or lack confidence.
Sheri: We were all there, exactly where you are. If you take a little risk, one step at a time, it is amazing how quickly you progress. Most of us are in the same boat.
Evy: Do it, because it is such a great opportunity. There is no charge. It is free training. It is social, making friends … . It’s just an all-around great opportunity for people who are shy and don’t socialize easily but want to get active, get outside, and enjoy the nice weather.
Sheri: It has been the greatest adventure of the year for me – in all ways. Meeting new friends … and learning that I can be a bike rider! It really has been awesome, on all levels.
Linda: The last seven years have been really hard … in all avenues of my life … a lot of losses. And this built a lot of confidence [in me], and it gave me a hope that I can rise above the things that have [dragged] me down. This was something that I didn’t know if I could do … then I realized I could do it! It stretched me in ways I haven’t been stretched. Note: According to husband, Larry, Linda is frequently expressing her newfound love for the sport, and requested I include the words he hears so frequently at home, “This has been a wonderful experience and I am loving every aspect of cycling!”
Evy: I am still nervous about some things on my new bike, and I feel like there are things I still need to learn. I want to continue and get better. It’s worth it. It feels so good on so many levels – personally, athletically, and socially.
There you have it, three stories of how cycling impacted the lives of a yoga instructor, an executive coach, and a transplant from Michigan. Cycling challenged and rewarded each one physically, mentally, socially, and soulfully. How about you? Are you ready for the challenge?
P.S. All three women have offered to respond to questions related to this interview. If you want an answer from a specific interviewee, include her name in your question (link provided below). Evy, Linda, and Sheri will be available to respond personally to your questions through April 2014.