Everyone loves to ride a bike, just like everyone loves to eat pizza, right?
Wrong. I don’t like either. While I realize this makes me somewhat un-American, I do have good reason for my serious aversion to any two-wheeled mode of transportation.
Please indulge me in a brief review of my cycling history, and you’ll quickly see why some of my closest friends and family think I’ve completely lost my mind by signing up for a triathlon. Not because I don’t know how to swim. Not because I don’t run- but, because I’m intensely nervous when riding a bike.
On my 5th birthday, as a gift from my parents, I received a bright lemon-yellow bike with a sparkly purple banana-shaped seat. To say I loved that bike deeply was an understatement; I was determined to learn to ride.
I practiced every single day after school, down the neighbor’s long gradually sloping driveway. More often than not, I crashed into the enormous picker bushes lining the drive way. I still have a thorn in my hand, all these years later.
One day, as I was coming home from school on the bus, I noticed my 3-year-old brother, confidently riding MY purple and yellow banana seat bike down the street, mocking me by yelling, “I learned to ride YOUR today ALL by myself”.
When I was 8, we moved to a new neighborhood out in the country where I was pretty much the only girl who lived on the remote dirt road. I was quite the tom-boy and played hard with the boys; games like Kick the Can, Pickle, 500 and Kill the Guy with the Ball were a mainstay.
The older boys liked to set up bike ramps, hop on their BMX bikes and jump over things, pretending they were Evil Knievel or Fonzie on Happy Days.
Often the younger kids lined up, lying on the ground next to each other to see how many bodies they could jump over. I was always the last body in line (being the only girl and all) and my heart would pound out of my chest every time another bike whizzed overhead. I think they landed on me only once.
In the sixth grade, my best friend Lori lived on the next road over, about a three-four mile bike ride. Every time I attempted to ride my bike to her house for a visit, I had to pass by the bigger-and-scarier-than-big-foot dog’s house. The over-sized black mongrel would chase me at top speeds all the way down the road, teeth chomping, barking, and always managing to nip at my feet and legs, tearing clothing, shoes and flesh.
As an early teen, I worked at various baseball diamonds as a scorekeeper (manually tracking the game, old school style), and drove my moped the 30-45 minutes to get there (yes, at the time I thought I was super cool).
A car that rode through a stop sign at the intersection sent me to a screeching halt and tailspin that led to wipe out into the middle of the road. I totaled the mo-ped, and ripped up the entire right side of my body, little pebbles and dirt stuck in the open, bleeding wounds.
That’s when I finally gave up riding. Until college that is.
My college boyfriend was a hard core mountain cyclist. He’d wake up at the crack of dawn every weekend and head to the finest trails Ann Arbor could offer.
In an effort to spend more time together, I cautiously agreed to borrow a friend’s bike and go with him. A couple miles into the trip, just I was feeling like I was getting my ride on, he unexpectedly took a turn down a flight of stairs on the side of a hill. What, people ride bikes down flights of stairs!?!
To brake at that point would have meant that I likely would’ve flipped over the handlebars. So, I had no choice but to follow, and of course, crashed at the bottm of the hill, where guess what - I flipped over the handlebars.
Our relationship crashed soon after.
Over a decade went by before I attempted another ride.
While planning a trip to Hawaii, every single person I spoke to commented on how fabulous the “must do while in Maui” bike ride down Mt. Haleakala was, and “you’d be crazy to miss it.”
So on our first day on the island, we got up at 2:00 in the morning, drove up to the top of the mountain, put on spaceman looking suits, watched the sunrise, and then began the day-long caravan down the winding road.
Yep, I would have been craaaaazy to have missed this.
I was so uncomfortable, firmly believing that, since there were not any guard rails to stop me, I could quite literally inadvertently ride right off the side of the mountain at any given moment, never to be seen again.
Fifteen minutes into the trip I sharply said to myself, “Screw this. You’re on vacation and this is so NOT relaxing.” I promptly hopped off my bike and jumped into the van that was following us with the cute driver from Tobago. Ahhh, so much more enjoyable.
However, in order to finish the 19-mile bike ride for the Iron Girl triathlon, I will not be able to jump into a nearby van. Instead, I need to jump on my $40 garage sale bike, get comfortable and attempt to get my ride on, yet again.
This time, I'm hoping for no thorny bushes, no chasing dogs, no stairs, no windy mountain roads and no crashes.