Reviewing the best bike rides of my life
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.” 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 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. It’s for females only, but men are graciously involved 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 you’d think.
In between these two tours, came a few seasons with a Hoo Koo E Koos mountain bike, probably the first mountain bike for many. My husband and I 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 and more civilized.
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 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 a quirky shop in Pleasant Hill. 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. This is now 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 casually 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 to keep up.
It was tough, cycling Skyline Boulevard, Grizzly Peak and Wildcat Canyon. Scary. Every time Laura shouted “Car back! Car back!” I thought she was saying, “Road rash! Road rash!”
But I made it through without crashing and was happy the ride revealed what I could do. We all need exercise and a little adventure in our lives. I’m grateful to those who have encouraged me along the way and hope to inspire others to sign up, team up, and enjoy discovering what you can do.