I’ve always loved riding a bike. As a child, I had a bright purple one with rainbow coloured streamers flying from my handlebars that took me to my best friend’s house in under a minute. At Uni, I had a red and grey one that took me along the St Lawrence River to the golf course where I used to waitress. In Japan, I had a black one with a bell and a basket that took me to schools in the middle of rice fields where no trains ever stopped. When I had my son, I had a silver one with a carrier on the back that took us along the cycle path on blue-skied days in search of the ice-cream van. And when the kids were old enough to be left alone, I got my road bike and started to develop a completely new relationship with cycling. Whereas I once rode a bike for pure pleasure or for commuting, I now ride a bike for sport. Its purpose is for health and wellbeing and for pushing my limits … things I had honestly never associated with a bike before. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun, but fun in an edgier, riskier, faster and harder way. Here’s why I think women should re-evaluate their relationships with cycling and maybe just maybe spark up a new one with a road bike.
I’ve developed this in spades. With every hill I face I tell myself ‘If I climbed the last one, I can climb this one’ and somehow I manage to climb each and every one, even those switchback ones and those never-ending ones. I don’t get off and I don’t walk, partly because I’ve always been determined to ride clipped in, but also because I’ve learned that the burning leg pain will subside, the breathing will slow and the heart rate will drop; it’s just a temporary state. It’s a bit like childbirth; as soon as you reach the top you forget about how horrendous it was getting there!
The sheer satisfaction of knowing that I’ve overcome my fear of looking behind me or riding on A-roads or that I’ve pushed my body to its limits and it’s responded in a way that I never thought possible, gives me a confidence that I’ve never experienced before. It’s a confidence that comes from within, not from being told by someone else that I’ve done something well, but from my knowing that I and I alone can achieve anything I put my mind to.
I’ve remembered how competitive I am. This is one of the reasons I like riding with my husband – we love to race! Okay, he wins most of the time, but sometimes I manage to catch him off guard and power past him on a hill or sprint past him to reach our gate first. I love uploading the Garmin data when I get home and checking my stats and seeing how I rank amongst others. And when I find out I’m on the leader board, especially with the men, or I’m even QOM, then I’m delighted.
I think having children and a safe job and just getting on with the practicalities of life can dull our competitive edge, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially if we want to re-enter the world of work or climb the career ladder. But sport reminds us that it’s okay to be competitive. In fact, it’s more than okay; it’s a prerequisite for success!
For me, developing resilience and rediscovering my confidence and competitiveness couldn’t have come at a better time. These qualities have kept me focused and positive as I steer my career, and indeed my life, in a different direction. That’s why I’d urge any woman considering cycling to give it a go. It has the potential to influence your life in so many positive ways. My advice is to just get on your bike and see where it takes you. You may just find a stronger, fiercer version of yourself!