I’m a nerdy Asian book-worm. My idea of cycling involves a fixie, no helmet and tortoise-rim glasses. Gears and machines terrify me. I hate getting dirty. I have a low tolerance for stress and I hate. getting. cold. I am, therefore, the least likely candidate to hop on a road bike.
But alas, it has been written in the stars. This has as much to do with the fact that my husband is a cycling evangelist extraordinaire as it does with my secret bloodthirsty craving for the sheer satisfaction of achievement.
So for posterity’s sake, let us record the journey of Julia and the road bike.
My novitiate began twelve years ago on a mountain bike. The signal of a job well done would be me managing to not scream in terror and agony at my husband while he whizzed ahead of me through a stop light that was dangerously threatening to turn red. This feat took me six years to accomplish.
Step two involved learning how to tow a toddler in a bike trailer. Here, a job well done meant my toddler was in one piece, and my trailer hadn’t clipped any curbs or brushed against any parked cars (woops). I also needed to learn how to attach the bike trailer to my own bike. When you combine procrastination with a propensity to rely on your husband’s technical expertise, this feat will take you another two years.
Step three? The trail-a-bike. This was easier to conquer since I had mastered the art of trailer-towing. The trick, I found, was abs of steel. External tummy flab is no obstacle here. All you do is squeeze your stomach muscles really hard. Presto. You have balance. And just like that, you are towing a six-year-old behind you on a trusty, rusty albeit wobbly one-wheeled contraption. One year; I had it down.
Step four — mountain biking on an I-swear-it’s-authentic mountain bike path complete with honest-to-goodness real roots, rocks, tree branches and everything. This is a bit of a traumatic memory, actually. I have a fuzzy recollection of many tears, the salvation of the lowest gear, more tears, a very sore bum, and more tears in case the first set didn’t sufficiently dehydrate.
Step five — getting my own lady cycling tights with their very own cushy hot pink chammy sewn into the seams. ‘Nuff said.
Step six — plunking myself down on the sidewalk and getting my fingers all good ‘n greasy, and not from fried chicken. I refused to whip out my cell phone and dial 9-1-hubby. Instead, I hunkered down, ignored the horrid feel of the slick black oil and focused on the task at hand: learning how to get a loose chain back onto the gear.
And lastly, we reach step seven. It has been a twelve year learning curve, but I finally utter a glowing “yes” to my husband. My road bike arrives from Ebay and I need to learn how to use clipless pedals. For the uninitiated, let me translate: this means your feet are in bondage to their pedals.
Leaning awkwardly on the trampoline in the backyard, perched on the new apparatus, I tentatively clipped my shoes in and out of the pedals at least a dozen times. Once the shoes are clipped in, this involves not so tentatively wrenching your foot free by twisting your ankle in a horrendously unnatural manner. But it gets easier.
And at 33, I actually find myself coasting down a hill on a my very own Felt F-55. I am faster than a speeding bike commuter, more powerful than a hipster on a fixie and able to leap potholes in a single bound. Well, not really. Potholes still stress me out. But I’ve arrived. It’s a bit before I hit middle age, I admit. But that’s okay. I’m not really a Mamil anyway. Being female precludes earning that title.
I didn’t expect the journey would involve so many silent volleys of so many mental expletives in my brain, the shedding of so much blood from my shins and the outflow of so many tears of frustration. But for all that, it’s been so much sweeter the gain.