Think back to your youth – your very first ride with no training wheels, the sense of accomplishment, control and balance.
As your confidence built, the feeling changed to exhilaration and joy as you tested your limits. Always a little faster and further, the wind in your face. And then the freedom you felt as you got older, meeting friends at the park, the library or the corner store on your own. Your bicycle was your transportation, a good friend, and your entertainment.
At some point, the bicycle was replaced with other modes of transportation. It was relegated to the depths of the garage, and the joy you felt while you rode was forgotten.
It’s time to dig it out, dust it off, and make friends again. It’s time to bring back the feelings of accomplishment, exhilaration, and freedom and joy you felt when you were younger.
I got back to bike riding because of my baby. I wanted an outdoor activity we could do together. I hitched a baby-trailer to the oldie-but-goodie bike my parents had bought me many, many years ago.
I enjoyed the rides with my kid, but I wanted more. I got into triathlons and from there started riding in the Arctic Bike Club road racing events.
Here are some things I have learned from starting as a mom-with-baby-in-tow to now, an experienced triathlete and cyclist.
Bicycle: It needs to be safe and mechanically sound. If you are looking at used bikes, consider meeting the seller at one of your local bike shops. You should be able to arrange for a technician or a friend with bike experience to look the bike over before you purchase.
Helmet: There’s no good reason to not wear a helmet. They are cheap and could save your life. Also, for all of the local-area events, they are required, and if you are fifteen years or younger they are required by local law.
Clipless Pedals: Clipless pedals improve power and bike handling. Clipless is somewhat of a misnomer though, as special biking shoes actually clip in to special pedals. Initially, this is intimidating because your feet are attached to the pedals, instead of resting on top. Consider trying clipless pedals on a bike trainer before you move to riding someplace safe and uncomplicated like an empty parking lot.
Bike Trainer: A bike trainer holds the rear axle of your bike in a metal stand and allows the rear wheel to spin freely. Trainers come in handy because you can ride indoors through the winter, and let you try new things (like clipless pedals or shifting hand positions) in a safer setting.
Safety & Fun: Some other gear that you might look in to is front and rear lights, reflectors, spare-tire/tube kits (in case of a flat tire mid-ride), a bike pump, a bear bell, and a bell or a horn to alert other riders that you’re there.
Clothing Basics: You will start off cool then warm up as you ride, so layers and clothes that wick away sweat and breathe well work the best. A light pair of gloves and hat come in handy, especially at the beginning of the season.
If you’re going to be riding often or for long distances, consider investing in some spandex bike shorts.
Fitted clothing tends to be more comfortable as loose clothing tends to flap around as you ride. Bike shorts have a padded section of chamois cloth in the crotch. These shorts will change your biking game! You wear them “commando” and the chamois cloth keeps your parts from getting rubbed the wrong way, while the padding helps your, ahem, seat, absorb the pressure of the bike seat. For women, a supportive sports bra can make things more comfortable but isn’t as necessary as when you are running.
Cary Grant said, “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally, I became that person. Or he became me.”
Just show up to an ABC-road event and pretend you belong there. Eventually you’ll find it’s true! If you aren’t feeling quite that brave, then come to an event and see how we function (and how much we’re smiling and laughing like a bunch of goons, even if in the rain) and then you’ll know what you’re looking forward to at the next event!
But mostly, get back on your bike. It’s there, maybe a bit dusty, waiting to reconnect you to the joyful feeling of freedom in riding.