Before I got into Physical Therapy and being competitive in racing mountain bikes and mountain bike coaching, I was a very normal, sane, albeit slightly inactive girl. I never grew up riding bikes. I was a dancer, mediocre figure skater, and fairly unmotivated to try anything out of my comfort zone. After I finished my B.A. at UCLA, I began to get more into aerobics, fitness, and personal training for quite a few high profile Hollywood clients. But I was growing bored of all the gym time. Living in Socal means 99.9% of the time the weather is perfect, so really I had no excuse to get outside and exercise more. Running was a great source of fitness, but I didn’t find the community I was looking for. I really fell into cycling… literally. My boyfriend at the time (this is a common thread among female cyclists I have found) was a competitive cyclist, and insisted I buy a bike. I never grew up riding a bike. Bikes outside the gym, on the road, scared me. “It’s soooooo easy”. He insisted he could teach me once I agreed to purchase a road bike. Oh it was NOT easy. I fell over, a lot. I couldn’t clip in to my pedals well, I gashed open my knee numerous occassions. I explain to a lot of new women to mountain biking and even road cycling that sometimes well intentioned guys, have no freaking clue. Oh it’s easy- for YOU maybe. When you didn’t grow up riding a bike, and are not genetically built with the same upper body strength, hip and thigh strength, and leverage that men are built with, many things that come natural to men, do not come as naturally to women.
My first foray into cycling sucked. I really honestly hated it. I was much slower than him, I felt winded and spun out trying to keep up, and all my gym training fitness was of zero help on the bike. That combined with the fact that I kept falling over and riding in busy Santa Monica traffic scared me, I really wanted to sell my bike. The first time I tried to ride on my own without him, I got as far as 2 miles maybe, I turned around and left my bike at the bike shop where he worked to go for a run. I was over it.
What eventually turned things around for me was the cycling and triathlon community. One of the reasons to this day I still ride and race competitively, it is a great and supportive community. You have people, women, old guys, kids, hipsters, whoever, all in the same boat. We just want to ride our bikes, be safe, and get outside. It was by meeting more cyclists, and especially more women who had been where I was as a newbie, that is how I got hooked.
Of all the sports I partake in these days, and there are plenty, cycling is on my top list of suggested exercises for not only rehabilitation for patients, but also for improving overall quality of life and improving cardiovascular fitness. Not everyone has the joint, muscular, or ligamentous stability to run. Some have had numerous knee or hip or spine surgeries and running isn’t an option. Cycling usually is.
After my initial debacle with cycling, I can now say I am an avid cyclist and enjoy spending time coaching new riders and kids. So at the end of the day I guess I owe a huge thanks to that ex-boyfriend. Despite all of the daily nightmares he caused, I have him to thank for introducing me to cycling – and finally allowing me to blossom into a more self confident and stronger woman. I remember telling him- “You expect me to spend $800 on a bike???? Do you know how much money that is???” Little did I know I’d be in full cycling gear junkie mode years later, spending over 10 times that amount on bikes alone. Is it worth it? Every penny.