When you give up fear you find out all sorts of crazy things about yourself.
I gave up fear and found out I’m a cycler… or.. a bicyclist… or whatever the hell you call them….
I certainly didn’t.
About 6 years ago I was 23, I weighed more than I ever had in my life, and I knew I wanted to get in shape. At the time, however, I had LOTS of stuff going on: I was going to grad school, I was newly married, I had just started substitute teaching and I was trying to help my struggling, bi-polar husband stay on his feet. I needed a quick fix and I thought the answer was “riding a bike everywhere”.
Soon, my father-in-law, who always has spare everythings lying around, put together an amazing bike for me. Next thing I knew I was near tears, struggling to peddle up a huge hill as semi-trucks WOOSHED by me at top speed and commuters jeered and shouted rude comments at me as they drove by.
I think I rode that bike 2 or 3 times before I promptly gave it up.
What went wrong?
- I wasn’t ready – Mentally and physically I just wasn’t ready to take on the challenge of commuting on a bike everyday. I was looking for something quick and easy and biking wasn’t it.
- I didn’t have a SMART plan – At the time I thought “ride my bike everywhere” was a great plan. What I didn’t realize is that it wasn’t a plan at all. It was a dream without wings because it wasn’t SMART = Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, or Timely.
- I wasn’t in the right place for what I was trying to do- While I was living in arguably one of the best cities in the country for bikers I wasn’t living *in* the city. The commute I had to make was either along a freeway or a dangerous stretch of road. I didn’t feel safe and was massively intimidated.
- I didn’t “own” my bike – My bike was given to me and I didn’t know anything about it. I hadn’t picked it out and I didn’t know how to operate it. While it was certainly mine, I didn’t have that sense of pride that comes with owning something really cool.
- I had an out – I could always take my car anywhere I wanted to go.
And most critically: I was afraid. Hearing people yell nasty things me from their cars really got to me. I decided I’d rather drive than face the humiliation.
Despite being massively put off from my first “I’m gonna be a biker” experience and afraid of rude comments from people on the street a part of me still wanted to be a biker chick. Then, slowly but surely, my life started to change:
- I got braver – At the beginning of this year I promised myself I would try ONE thing that scared me. After crossing that off my list in record time I decided my year should be FULL of challenging myself to face my fears.
- I got tougher – While I’m still overweight, I’m a whole heck-of-a-lot tougher than I’ve ever been. Exercising as much as I do means I’m one strong girl. I knew I could commute on a bike after enough time and practice.
- I moved – From one of the most bike-friendly places in the country, to a place I’ve seen only a FEW streets with bike lanes. This actually ended up being positive as cyclists here are allowed to ride on the sidewalks which puts me out of harms way (a little more) and takes SO much of my fear away.
- I have a plan – I’m gonna start off slow and work my way up to bigger and better rides. For now my bike is for commuting to and from the gym. Then I’ll work on visiting friends and family and people and errands that are farther away.
- I don’t have an out – Hubs and I are down to exactly one vehicle between the two of us which means when he’s at work I’m either stuck at home, walking, or begging friends and family for a ride. As you can imagine, that got old really fast and my desire to own a bike has never been stronger.
Plus, I’m proud to say, I’m officially the owner of the prettiest, most wonderfulest bike in the whole wide world! I finally got motivated enough to save up for a bike. I did lots of research and field testing and when the day finally came, I went to my local bike shop and bought her.
But, how does that make you a cycler (or cyclist or whatever they’re called)?
I realized things were different this time after about a week of using my bike to go to and from the gym. Things were going great and I was actually enjoying it. It was working!
I was thinking this over at a red light when I heard people yelling at me from their car.
“Seriously?!” I thought, “Not again….”
Then I looked at them.
5 grown men squeezed into a tiny (TINY) car.
“Yeah guys, *I’m* the one who looks like an idiot”
….I thought to myself as I smiled and peddled off.
What do you think of my awesome bike? She still needs a name!