Flashback to August 2015, I was coming into transition after my longest bike ride ever at my first (and as of now, only) IRONMAN. After many hours, 112 miles, and over 7000 feet of elevation gain, I had pretty much had enough biking to last me a lifetime.
“Sell my bike.” I told my husband and sister, “I’m never riding ever again.”
“Okay” they snickered “It’s going to be tough. There isn’t a huge market for tiny bikes like yours.”
Comedians. I’d just spent many miserable hours riding up hill after hill and all they wanted to do was make short jokes. No matter, though. I had finally reached the best part of any triathlon, the run.
Since finishing that IRONMAN a few years ago, I’ve pretty much kept my vow to never ride again. I’ve gone for a short ride here and there but for the most part, my bikes have been silently collecting dust in the basement.
Part of the reason why I haven’t done any riding the last few years is because there is nowhere to ride. In a world that’s increasingly made for car traffic and to minimize any chance of people having to ever set foot outside their vehicle, there is less room for bikes. Add to that the fact that everyone has a smart phone and what seems to be a blatant disregard for other people, and I pretty much can’t think of a worse scenario for cyclists. In college, I lived in an area with miles and miles of country roads that were perfect for biking. The few drivers that were out on those roads were friendly and accommodating. When I think about where I live now with it’s constant stream of car horns, drag racing, and people watching movies and texting behind the wheel, it makes me miss the good old days. I used to love biking, but I don’t love it so much that I’m willing to put my life in danger for it.
Fast forward to a few days ago. My friend is training for a multi-day triathlon event that’s coming up in just over a month. I keep telling her she needs to do more biking, but she doesn’t always have the motivation to ride. When your options are: ride inside on a stationary bike trainer, ride on a dangerous road, or ride on a bike path made for dog walkers and children with training wheels, it doesn’t exactly make training easy.
After literal years of her trying to get me to bike with her, I finally gave in. I even convinced my husband to join in the misery, I mean fun. For our ride we decided on a nearby park on an island in the Detroit River where we could do five-mile loops. It was sunny, 70 degrees, and it was a park so there shouldn’t be much traffic (because who goes to parks these days, right?). We had all the makings for a great ride, or at least as great as biking can be.
But first, we had to get there. This meant getting our bikes onto the roof of our car. Easier said than done. Basically all the moving parts on our bike racks were corroded with years of non-use. To get the locks unlocked and to be able to adjust everything that needed to be adjusted required some chain lube, a wrench, and a snow scraper. After about a half hour, we finally managed to get both bikes on the roof, feeling like we had already completed our workout.
When we arrived at the park, there was chaos. Orange barrels, concrete stanchions, lanes ending, and cars, lots and lots of cars. So much for the low-traffic ride I had envisioned. The warm temperatures on a beautiful spring night ensured that we were far from the only people with this park idea.
After we parked our cars, put on our shoes, and pumped up our tires, we were finally ready to ride. Side note, this is another reason I think biking is annoying. At this point I had already spent an hour and a half collecting all my gear, getting bikes on the roof, driving to said location, etc. With running, you just put on your shoes and go, easy as that. But anyway, this day was about biking.
I considered it a win when I successfully got on my bike without immediately falling over. Maybe riding a bike really is “just like riding a bike”? On our first loop, we got the lay of the land aka where all the construction zones were, where there was glass in the bike lane, and who the especially angry drivers seemed to be. By the second loop, I was almost even having fun. My bike handling skills seemed to still be intact and I was even able to take a few pictures while we were riding. On our fourth and final loop, the sun was setting, there was less traffic, and I was almost able to see what I used to love so much about biking. Almost. The wind in my hair, the sound of my wheels spinning, having to yell to be heard (oh wait, I do that even when I’m not biking). These are things you just don’t get on a run or hike.
Would I do it again? Probably, but I’m not sure yet whether that will be in three days or three years.