Reviewing the best bike rides of my life
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In every walk of life, there are people to thank. Today I would like to thank my cycling angels, the people who fostered my love of biking, going way back to my first years out of college in New York City.
I’m thinking of Ray who hoisted my bike and his onto a moving train (the Hudson Line) for my first real biking adventure. I’m not sure where we got off the train, but we were clearly north of the city on streets that were entirely rural and mysterious.
Then came an urban cycling adventure, thanks to Jeff’s invitation, that was equally as fascinating: The Five Boro Bike Tour, “Boro” being short for “borough.” On this annual tour, in one day, an endless flow of bikers ride through all five boroughs of Manhattan. I remember having a headache through the whole thing due to missing my coffee that morning and not wanting to break out of the flow to buy a cup, but I had one of the best days of my life nonetheless.
Years later, on the other side of the country, my friend Amy introduced me to the Cinderella Classic, a bike tour that winds through the beautiful rolling hills east of San Francisco. For some reason, it is for females only. Men are involved, but only in a supportive role. For example, the men feed us…a lot. They feed us breakfast, snacks, lunch, and a post-ride soup that is amazing. With all the nourishment received along the way, the 65 miles is easier than expected.
In between these two tours, came a few seasons with a mountain bike and my marriage to Scott. Scott and I both bought Hoo Koo E Koos, probably the first mountain bikes for many. We biked on the fire roads in the Tahoe National Forest (getting lost which made for an eight-hour adventure); we frequented the Shell Ridge Open Space; and we spent one gnarly weekend navigating the canyons of Nevada City. Oh, those were the days…until I flipped over the handlebars on a steep decline and decided I wanted to go back to roads that were paved.
A decade slipped by without biking when I finally called my friend Emily, an avid cyclist, and asked where I should buy a new road bike. I wanted to get “fitted” properly since this bike would probably be with me for the rest of my life. (I don’t buy toys often, but when I do, I keep them a long time.) She directed me to Pleasant Hill Cyclery. “The place is a little quirky,” she said, “but they will fit you well.” A few hours later in the shop, I fixed my eye on a hybrid bicycle. Hybrids were gaining popularity at the time and seemed good enough for me. As I was nearing the purchase, angel Emily showed up. “I thought you might need some help,” she kindly said. Her boyfriend came too and they casually wheeled a Bianchi over to me. “Try this one,” they said. I took it for a test ride and my eyes were opened. I remember hearing, “steel is real,” and putting something like $2,000 on my credit card. Other than my wedding ring, it is my prized possession.
The day after I bought the Bianchi, I called up Laura, the last cycling friend I would like to thank. “A group of us are riding this Saturday,” she beckoned, “Join us.” I showed up at the appointed place and Laura sheepishly asked me, “Is thirty miles okay?” I had no idea if it was okay! Beyond my little test ride, I hadn’t ridden in years! But the group of cyclists were eager to get going, so I put on a good attitude and said I’d try.
It was tough, cycling Skyline Boulevard, Grizzly Peak and Wildcat Canyon. Laura kept shouting to me, “Car back! Car back!” This is the common phrase cyclists use to call attention to a car approaching from behind, but being the fearful novice that I was, I kept hearing, “Road rash! Road rash!”
But I made it through without crashing and was happy the ride showed me what I could do. It wasn’t until my next ride, when all by myself, I forgot to unclip when I stopped my bike and fell in slow motion to the ground. Laura had warned me that it would probably take three falls before it becomes second nature to unclip my shoes. She also taught me how to clean my wheels from bits of glass and she flippantly gave me an extra pair of expensive bike shorts, something I greatly appreciated since I had my Bianchi to pay off.
We all need exercise and at least a little adventure in our lives. I am grateful to those who have encouraged me along the way and hope to inspire others to sign up, team up, and enjoy each other in the great outdoors.