Why do I ride my bike? The answers are endless! I shared my story yesterday with a small group of women gathered in Portland’s Western Bikeworks’ Corsa Cafe. They came to learn more about Ride Like A Girl. This was the first of two “Just Coffee” information sessions scheduled this month. The exercise of reflecting and sharing my story caused me to reflect all day on the reasons why I ride my bike. Here are eight of them. Why eight? Because I ran out of time – I am leading a bike ride at eleven o’clock and I haven’t eaten yet!
- Biking makes me feel like a kid again. Mounting my bike evokes feelings of playtime. A Cannondale carbon fiber performance bike beneath me, I still feel like I am seven, pedaling to 7-11 for snacks with my best friend, Judie. Those banana-seat Schwinns, our fuschia and yellow gifts from Santa Claus, carried us through childhood.
- Biking is exercise in disguise! I don’t know about you, but I hate exercise. I don’t like the gym, lifting weights, or assuming the plank-pose. But when I get on my bike, I am socializing with friends, biking to breakfast, discovering new Oregon goodness, or de-stressing. OMGosh, did I mention the endorphins? I think biking is God’s way of tricking me into exercising.
- Biking motivates me to improve my fitness (and lose weight). When I was in my skinny twenties I could simply think about losing weight on Monday and the pounds would be gone by Friday. Little-to-no willpower required! But a body after-childbirth is never quite the same. Throw in a 32-year career of sitting in meetings or at a computer most of the day. Add to the mix being a middle-aged woman who never liked physical exercise, and what do you get? Let’s call that a rhetorical question. All I can tell you is that while many say that a benefit to biking is improved fitness, I will tell you that the benefit for me is motivation to get fit. It did not take me long to discover that excess baggage and a lack of lean muscle makes biking harder than it needs to be. So rooted in my belief that life is better when it’s easy, I have found new motivation to get this bod in biking (not perfect) shape.
- Biking gives me vacations without leaving home. Having lived in Oregon for over thirty years I have been privileged enough to see the many treasures of this gorgeous, green land (Crater Lake, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Coast, Painted Hills… – We all know the list is long). It was only when I started biking that I discovered that some of the best get-aways and captivating panoramas lay all around me in my own backyard. You see, cyclists usually prefer routes that vehicles tend to avoid; winding country roads, the long way, the road less traveled. Less traffic translates to a quieter, relaxing, and all-around more pleasurable – and need I say, safer ride. Discovering these backroads of Hillsboro and North Plains, the tranquil Rock Creek Road up to Skyline, the climb to and view from Council Crest, the rural roads of Carlton and Yamhill County – feels like an escape to fresh, new and lovely places. Places I had never seen until I mounted the saddle of my bike.
- Biking increases my friend network. With a personality type of ISTJ (according to Meyers-Briggs) less is more, socially speaking. Don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly enjoy social activities, but I am one who re-energizes by being alone. In keeping with my mostly-accurate MB analysis, it is easy to find myself having fewer, but closer, friends. Getting into cycling, more specifically, seeking out group rides, has greatly expanded my friendship circle. Personally, this has been fun, educational, and incredibly helpful. Friends help you change your flat tire. Friends share with you what they have discovered in the way of good deals, cycling tips, and best places to ride. Friends offer you resources beyond the bike because, contrary to what some might think, cyclists have lives beyond bikes! Some of my new friends include a chef, judge, engineer, IT specialist, executive coach, yoga instructor, real estate agent, marketing specialist, physician’s assistant, interior designer and nurse.
- Biking makes me feel alive! I’m not too sure how to articulate this, except to say that both during and after a bike ride I feel energized, I breathe more deeply, I am happier and I feel healthy. Yes, I am dealing with some of the fun that comes with involuntary entry into my fifties, but cycling is helping me stay focused on what I can do versus what I cannot. It is strengthening me so that I can enjoy other activities (like hiking, climbing a sand dune – or a flight of stairs). One way to say it this this: I do not feel fifty and I believe I am in better shape than when I was forty. Ha!
- Biking helps me be more courageous. I used to plan every route according to its elevation properties – flat and no hills was the primary requirement. But joining a cycling group and training for cycling events challenged me to learn how to climb. If not for the encouragement of other cyclists riding alongside me, the distraction of friendly conversation, and the well-earned post ride meal, I would never have put myself through it. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the way I stopped being afraid of hills. Facing that fear, being willing to sweat through the discomfort while I learned something new, and practicing over and over taught me that this fifty-year-old can do more than I ever thought I could.
- Biking opens up the world to me! With the fear of climbing behind me, my husband and I traveled last year to New Zealand and embarked on our first-ever bike trek. Traveling by bike through the rugged and remote South Island was a bike ride like none other. Those four days rank as some of the best days of my life. Rain forests, glaciers, the Tasman Sea, oh my! Up and over Haast Pass (aka, The Wall) , alongside Lake Wanaka (with a forced stop to wait for a herd of sheep crossing the road) and on to Lake Hawea. The vistas were breathtaking and every day was better than the one before it. I have been to a half dozen foreign lands and New Zealand is in the top two – second only to Ireland! (That one was for you, Mom & Dad). Note: I would be remiss not tell you that we received top-notch service from the nice folks at Natural High in Christchurch, New Zealand. Andy and Sandra supplied us with panniers, bikes, maps, good advice and smiles.
Why do YOU ride?