In the 24 hours leading up to my first group ride, my primary fear was being dropped. Or being unable to unclip and knocking down a bunch of strangers like dominoes. I seriously considered not going, and if it hadn’t been for a really polite and encouraging email exchange with the women in charge of the ride, I probably would have stayed home.
But, I went. I didn’t get dropped, nor did I knock anyone over. The weather was perfect -- sunny, a light breeze -- and what I remember most about that day was laughter and the click-click-click sound of cyclists clipping in. I could list of all the women I met that day, because at some point during the ride, I found myself beside each one of them. Every conversation was easy and unrushed; even though everyone came from pretty different backgrounds, we all had that one thing in common: bikes.
To backtrack, I didn’t always ride bikes, especially not road bikes. A few months after I graduated from the University of Texas, my husband upgraded my commuter for my birthday. He was thinking maybe I’d be more inclined to do the occasional 20-mile ride with him, a thing I did not enjoy on my clunky 70s Peugeot. The upgrade was an 80s handmade custom steel frame the color of a grackle in the sun. I built her up myself from my husband’s collection of vintage Campy parts, named her Jolene (yes, after the Dolly Parton song), and fell hard in love with cycling.
Something clicked for me. I grew up in rural Arizona and I’m not built for city life. If I go too long without quiet outdoor time, I get super anxious and grumpy. On my new bike, I discovered Austin’s great for cycling -- ride 10 miles in any direction and you’re on quiet country roads where you see more cattle than you do cars.
2015 held many changes: I graduated from an MFA program I loved, the beloved family I nannied for moved away, and I began a new career in social media marketing. For the first time in my life, I had a desk job; I’d only ever worked in kitchens or with kids. It was a steady paycheck and health insurance and job security, a package deal I’d never had before. The catch: it was miserable. I sat at a desk for 50+ hours, doing mindless work I did not enjoy, in a chaotic startup environment. I didn’t even have the emotional energy to spend on my own writing, which was the whole point of getting an MFA. I was overwhelmingly restless.
So, I spent as much time in the saddle as possible. I threw my restlessness at the road. I started riding 200 miles a week. I started doing longer rides by myself. I started noticing women riding together in town and decided I wanted friends to ride with, too. I found a local women’s cycling group -- Team Snacks -- and reached out to the leader, Kelly Krause, who’s now a very dear friend. She invited me to their Sunday ride, and for the next six months, I was there every week. Then I started leading that same ride, and have been for a year now. My favorite part about leading is when new women show up. It’s a great beginner ride (or recovery ride for more experienced cyclists), and nothing makes all of us happier than when someone shows up and tells us they’ve never been on a group ride before. I can’t even count how many rad women I’ve met since I sent that super awkward email to Kelly what feels like an eternity ago.
Last spring, I upgraded bikes again, this time to my Specialized Diverge. I got in early morning rides with friends before heading into the office. Weekends were for miles, weekdays for speed. I slogged through work so I could hit the road (or gravel) with an ever-increasing number of women who were badass AND supportive. My idea of the future began to shift. The thought of spending the next however many years at a desk was unbearable, but the thought of losing that job security was terrifying.
I started to daydream about a career in the bike industry. To spend all day around bikes, talking about bikes, getting people on bikes. So, I took the plunge. I put in my two weeks. A local shop where a friend worked was hiring, and she put in a good word.
So, now: I spend my work week in a bike shop. I have awesome coworkers and customers and I’m learning a lot. Every day is new bike day for someone, and I don’t really have words for how awesome it is to watch a kid test ride their first mountain bike, or help a woman who’s training for a 100k pick out her first road bike. Retrospect’s a wonderful thing. If I hadn’t been so unhappy at work, I don’t know if I would have thrown myself at cycling the way I did. More than that, though, if I hadn’t shown up to that first group ride, I probably wouldn’t have found myself here.
Comments will be approved before showing up.