That is a statement that dictated much of my potential bike riding life; I said I couldn’t, so I went years without experiencing the joys of riding a bicycle. Take a non-athletic girl living up on a gravel hill in the middle of nowhere. My mother tried to encourage bike riding by riding to my grandma’s house and back. I was petrified of the steep hill I had to go down and I complained heavily when I had to walk back up that hill. I said I couldn’t and that is where my mentality stayed for years.
I can only imagine how much better of a rider I would be now had I gotten over my self-depreciating slump of “I can’t” and actually had the motivation to prove to myself I could. I would be a stronger, faster, and likely more skilled rider had I just worked with the area I lived vs. ignoring it like the plague. That mentality I had as a child stuck with me into my adult life for years to come.
I moved to Decorah and my bike riding co-worker told me several times "You need to get a bike!” My “I can’t” attitude stuck with me and I made every excuse possible. I made comments about all the hills in town, all of the drivers on the street, my lack of ability, and my lack of comfort. This started and continued from 2009 until 2012; one fateful Monday I woke up and changed my mind.
“I’m sick of this.” I’m sick of my attitude, I’m sick of my setting myself back, and I’m sick of driving my darn car to work. I wanted to make changes in my life and I realized that would only happen if I got a set of wheels. Bike wheels that is.
I went to work that afternoon and told my biking co-worker that I would get my first bike by Friday. Long story short, I did, and it changed my life.
Getting more involved with the cycling community, there are many females out there who doubt their own abilities to get on a bike and ride. I experienced this fully after I started becoming more comfortable out on the paved trail and while biking to work. My partner is an excellent rider for many different styles: street, paved trail, gravel, and mountain biking. I wanted to taste something different than my standard Trout Run Trail ride and commuting to work. I wanted to do what I saw few women doing-mountain bike.
I can’t tell you how many times in my head, I silently wondered if I would be able to do it. So often people will tell you that you just need to get on your bike and ride. It’s not as easy to do now as it would be when I was a child. I’m an adult with work and other responsibilities looming over my shoulder; what would happen if I broke a limb?
I had to shake all of those insecurities out of my mind, that doesn’t mean a tinge of nervousness lingered in the foreground of my brain. I’ll fully admit any time I start off on a mountain bike ride I have a feeling of nervousness well up in my gut. After I get going or accomplish a new skill, that adrenaline rush of accomplishment overpowers any nagging anxiety.
That rush of success, desire to learn, and wish to prove to other female riders out there “Yes you can!” I'm doing this by taking female friends out riding with me. Paved trail, fatbikes in the snow, and mountain biking this summer; it's quality time with friends but it also helps us grow as riders. Soon our laughing at our imperfections will be laughter of how awesome the bike feels under us while we tackle whatever terrain we're on.
It's important to remember that everyone starts somewhere and you get better with time and practice. Go at the pace you feel comfortable with, if you need to walk-do it, and most importantly: enjoy the ride!