A glorious smells-like-fall Monday to you, Ladies & Lady-lovers!
Here’s your internet interestingness to start the week with open and fascinated minds :)
Scotland may soon be fully independent – haggis and kilts for everyone! The link above explains what’s going on (note: according the the BBC…) and provides arguments for and against this historic vote.
Got some innovative ideas and designs for wave power generators? Now’s your chance to change history! NASA and the DOE want to move us towards sustainable technology by cracking the code of wave power. One problem: they’re stuck. Much as the Arab Spring harnessed the power of the public via the internets, so, too is the government seeking new perspective by tapping ideas from any and everyone across the USA. They’ve provided open source software to measure the effectiveness of your designs, so if you’ve got a good idea, submit it! Some lovely open-source do-goodery for the environmental and Ladies everywhere.
3) E-BIKE CONVERSION KIT THAT PROVIDES ASSIST TUNED TO YOUR HEART-RATE (EXPLAINED TO OVERLY-DRAMATIC MUSIC)
Falco already provides some great and durable kits to convert your bike to a pedal-assisted e-bike, but their new design offers off-road capable, heart-rate controlled assist – new technology that sounds incredibly cool! Their kickstarter video explains the technology with the giggle-inducing bonus of background tunes appropriate for the lead-up to battle in LOTR or GOT. Seriously – who picked the music?
Yep – building safer infrastructure for Ladies & Lady-lovers on two-wheels can actually IMPROVE congested roads, and now there are studies proving it. From the article:
Rather than increase delay for cars, the protected bike lanes on Columbus actually improved travel times in the corridor. According to city figures, the average car took about four-and-a-half minutes to go from 96th to 77th before the bike lanes were installed, and three minutes afterward—a 35 percent decrease in travel time. This was true even as total vehicle volume on the road remained pretty consistent. In simpler terms, everybody wins.
It only took 126 years, but huzzah for closure! The info and process appears to be legitimate – testing of a shawl with both the blood of The Ripper’s victim and semen from the attacker – and has led to a 100% mitochondrial DNA match to a known suspect: Aaron Kosminski. I’ll still hold out on official declarations until I see this news re-printed by a source other than The Daily Mail…
C.S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves examines the different intimate bonds we form with one another, including what he considers the “rarest, least jealous, and most profound relation” – friendship. From the book & post:
In a circle of true Friends each man is simply what he is: stands for nothing but himself. No one cares twopence about anyone else’s family, profession, class, income, race, or previous history. Of course you will get to know about most of these in the end. But casually. They will come out bit by bit, to furnish an illustration or an analogy, to serve as pegs for an anecdote; never for their own sake. That is the kingliness of Friendship. We meet like sovereign princes of independent states, abroad, on neutral ground, freed from our contexts. This love (essentially) ignores not only our physical bodies but that whole embodiment which consists of our family, job, past and connections. At home, besides being Peter or Jane, we also bear a general character; husband or wife, brother or sister, chief, colleague, or subordinate. Not among our Friends. It is an affair of disentangled, or stripped, minds. Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.
Hence (if you will not misunderstand me) the exquisite arbitrariness and irresponsibility of this love. I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gave value to survival.
Have a wondrous week, and as always, remember to enjoy the ride, Ladies :)
It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. -Sir Edmund Hillary
Climbing mountains, whether on two feet or two wheels, is a feat of endurance and strength and pain and mental fortitude nearly incomparable to any other experience. When you take yourself, under your own power, to the top of something that looms over landscape and dominates skylines, it feels surreal. In fact, beyond a kind of intense happy, it doesn’t feel like anything until I’ve returned to earth and processed hours or days of trekking, memories now inextricably amalgamated.
In this quest for adventure in its highest form, many turn their thoughts to the mountain – a target they have overtaken, a landscape they have beaten in some self-imagined conquest.
After hiking the indescribably beautiful Kalalau trail on Kauai’i, I still remember the comment from my AirBnb host the morning after sleeping off the last 11 miles of up-and-overs. After commenting on a planned noodly-legged waterfall hike for the afternoon, he raised his hands and pulled his chin back in a hold-your-horses kind of way. “Well, don’t overdo it. I know how coming back from that trail you feel like superman, ya know, like the big man who conquered the Island.” No, you know, I didn’t know what he meant. If anything, hiking that trail left me in awe of the immensity and rawness of the Island and my comparative smallness in this world and this life. If rain had hit earlier in the day or while I was on exposed landslide areas, if the lightning that night had come ashore, if I had misplaced one step I might not have been standing on this guy’s stoop, sipping from a fresh coconut he had generously drilled open. Nature is a force we can never match – think otherwise and she stands to show you how wrong you are.
Hikes and summits like that, where you’re given moments of intimate exposure to the untouched wildness of this world and your own tenuous existence, they’ve never left me with the arrogance of domination – they’ve left me humbled. I overcome my own mental and physical resistance, I push beyond what I’ve known I could, I MacGyver oh-shit mountaineering and weather scenarios (and improvise upon realizing I’ve yet again forgotten to pack toilet paper), but all of these breakthroughs and accomplishments had more to do with me getting out of my own way – nature was just kind enough to hold off life-ending conditions until I could exit to civilization. It’s those moments where you realize you have absolutely no control… the weather or a downed tree or a dry water source or a bear could easily destroy best laid plans. All you can control are your movements and your focus, one moment at a time, particularly in places and slopes less conducive to survival. You have to live entirely and fully right now or living may no longer be an option.
This kind of mindfulness, as I was once told, is like being a duck in the vastness of the ocean – you cannot truly see anything but the crest of the nearest wave, you cannot feel anything but the rhythm of where you currently are, and who knows the immensity of what’s passing beneath you. Happiness comes from letting go of what you cannot see, paddling in whatever direction you wish, and learning to enjoy the ride. When I’ve crested the top of a mountain, much like most summits in life, all I can do is breathe it in and remind myself I’m only half way.
The quote from Sir Edmund Hillary is succinct and true – getting lost and getting high bring you face to face with the mountainous unexplored-self. Tallying peaks and elevation give you nothing but lists on paper that fade with time, but letting go and cracking yourself open can let in the beauty of this imperfect life in the very imperfect moment.
So what’s your mountain and what do you have to let go of to find the summit?
Keep climbing, climbing, climbing, Ladies :)
Coats. Not just pretty, warm coats, but coats that move well, breathe well, and keep rain off well enough for riding year round. I wore my down puffy beneath a rainshell for years, but the look was… not ideal – Michelin Man-esque and more appropriate for backpacking than political hearings.
I posted a while back about gorgeous rain coats made by a lovely Lady in the UK – The Cambridge Raincoat Company. I still recommend these lovely threads, but I’m adding another option to the list.
Slightly less expensive, designed and founded in Portland, OR, made from recycled and low-impact materials, I’ve found the perfect go-to coat for just about everything! And after extended experience with their product and stellar customer service, I’m officially offering my pick for the top two-wheeled commute-coat maker: Nau!
The designs and details are spot on, clean, and sophisticated, the inner lining is luxuriously soft, and the coat cleans (& stays clean) easily. Style AND practicality – a lovely combination! And huge kudos for an oversized collar that seconds as a face warmer & wind shield – an easy single handed, one-button conversion while riding. I’m currently loving the Shroud of Purrin Trench, with added length to keep my thighs dry but enough stretch to prevent hinderance to leg movement. It isn’t fully waterproof – just resistant – but it holds up to year-round Portland-misting, light rain, and dries pretty quickly after downpours.
I encourage you to buy from and support this awesome, USA based company. Yes, they manufacture outside of the US, but they’re transparent about it and have standards far beyond most apparel producers. I buy USA made, particularly locally made, whenever possible. This is one instance where their ethical and environmental standards coupled with a commitment to headquarters in the USA made the purchase alright with my standards. I still hope for USA manufacturing in their future, and encourage you to send along a give-us-a-USA-made-option request to them, too!
The cost is moderate for a coat that lasts years (my first Nau coat is still in excellent condition after wearing it, sweating in it, and testing its limits nearly daily for almost 3 years), but you can also best your they-still-have-my-size luck and reap major savings from their yearly sale, which usually happens at the beginning of the summer.
For a full-on raincoat, check out Cambridge. For your everything-else coat? Nau’s the way to go.
Keep riding beautifully & comfortably, Ladies!
Here’s your Monday interestingness for the last week of August. Filled with bikes, gear fixing, bikes, coconut fig popsicle, and creativity:
Apparently context matters. A successful example out of Montreal shows that calculating the potential number of spots in relation to ALL area parking when proposing a conversion to safer bicycle lanes helped lawmakers, residents, and businesses understand how small of a percentage was actually being converted – and how underutilized parking is in general.
Finally! My rain jacket can be re-used! Here’s a great DIY from Backpacker Magazine with tips and needed tools to fix your wonky or broken zipper. May your sleeping bags, tents, and all other zipper-joined materials be useable once again!
Yet again, my birth state continues to make glorious progress! I grew up near Harford County, MD, and can confirm it’s a place where most homes are ranked “car dependent” on WalkScore.com, making sidewalks a fantasy, let alone infrastructure for people on bicycles. UNTIL NOW! More people are riding these country roads and not just weekend warriors – work commuting atop two-wheels is on the rise! Let’s see what happens, but if it continues to get better, this area could set a national example for other, more rural places (like Washington County, OR) where people on bicycles have traditionally been considered an out-of-place rarity & nuisance.
4) BICYCLE FRIENDLY BUSINESS DISTRICTS IN NYC!
Figs are ripening, it’s f*&king hot outside, and coconut milk is delicious! Check out this awesome, simple summer recipe that’s sure to please friends, loved ones, and your mouth.
Trying, perhaps unsuccessfully, to get some writing or creative work done? “The Psychology of Writing” by Ronald T. Kellogg offers insight into how our environment shapes our productiveness, what details detract from the process, and how important a daily routine can be. A few snippets from the post:
Kellogg reviews a vast body of research to extract a few notable findings. Among them is the role of background noise, which seems to fall on a bell curve of fecundity: High-intensity noise that exceeds 95 decibels disrupts performance on complex tasks but improves it on simple, boring tasks — noise tends to raise arousal level, which can be useful when trying to stay alert during mindless and monotonous work, but can agitate you out of creative flow when immersed in the kind of work that requires deliberate, reflective thought.
…But the key psychological function of [dedicated] environments isn’t so much superstitious ritualization — an effort to summon the muse through the elaborate juju of putting everything in its right place — as cognitive cueing. Kellogg considers the usefulness of a special space used solely for writing, which cultivates an “environment that cues the desired behavior”
…This strategy is rather similar to the one most often recommended for treating insomnia — instituting a regular bedtime and using the bedroom as a space dedicated solely to sleep, in order to optimize the brain’s ability to enter rest mode upon going to bed and cue that behavior each night just by entering that environment.
And Kellogg’s insight into the usefulness of cultivating a productive morning:
“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until morning when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that.”
Well, I’ve filled my creative space for morning and am off for the day!
Enjoy the blooms and flavors and scents of the height of summer, and keep on pedaling, Ladies!
Hey Ladies & Lady-Lovers! I’ve been doing quite a bit of technical reading as of late due to thesis research requirements, but I’m finding time to check out fascinating and engaging reads as my weight-luxury on the trails (along with tea/coffee).
And so, as my giddiness for particular books increases, I thought I’d pass along a book I’m loving each month.
As we head towards September, I’ll pass along a well-written, well researched, interestingness-loaded non-fiction read: Last Child in the Woods – Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.
Having kids? Already have kids? Don’t want kids, but want confirmation that your backyard-fort-building and tech-lite childhood was better than modern iphone-facebook-zombie childhood? Just want to learn some cool stuff about the effects of being in nature? Then read this book!
Louv compiles research and accessible theory to explain why exposure to nature is integral to our mental and physical health, particularly for kids. He reviews ADHD, our overuse of medication, and how nature can serve as an effective cure for our frazzled selves. A little from the book:
“Our brains are set up for an agrarian, nature-oriented existence that came into focus five thousand years ago… neurologically, human beings haven’t caught up with today’s overstimulating environment… we know this anecdotally, though we can’t prove it yet.”
New studies may offer that proof… In 1890, James described two kinds of attention: directed attention and fascination (i.e., involuntary attention). In the early 1970’s, the Kaplans began a nine-year study for the U.S. Forest Service. They followed participants in an Outward Bound-like wilderness program, which took people into the wilds for two weeks. During these treks and afterward, subjects reported experiencing a sense of peace and an ability to think more clearly; they also reported that just being in nature was more restorative than the physically challenging activities… for which such programs are mainly known. The positive effect of what the Kaplans came to call “the restorative environment” was vastly greater than [researchers] expected it to be.
…“If you can find an environment where the attention is automatic, you allow directed attention to rest. And that means an environment that’s strong on fascination.” The fascination factor associated with nature is restorative, and it helps relieve people from directed-attention fatigue.
Very cool, very interesting, and super informative. Nature makes you feel good – now you can learn why.
Enjoy the reads, buy from a local bookstore, and keep on pedaling, Ladies!
Hello Ladies & Lady-Lovers! I’m back and refreshed after tagging along on Mountain Bike Oregon this past weekend.
An aside: As someone relatively new to mountain biking, I have to encourage Ladies a little hesitant to ride off-road to push past fear and give it a try. Meandering through the forest on two wheels feels like moving meditation, and the sights you’d otherwise not see, and animals that cross your path, make the experience magical. Handling comes with time and miles, and till you’re ready for root drops and rougher terrain, there are tons of beginner and intermediate trails to choose from.
So as I sit sipping my morning caffeinated beverage (these guys are some of the best coffee roasters in PDX) reflecting on three days of camping and beautiful riding in the mountains around Oakridge, OR, I find I’m left with three lessons:
1) To improve handling, LET GO
2) Talk to strangers
2) Gin is not an appropriate sports beverage
As a Lady only recently dipping a toe into the MTB world, I was excited to expand my skill set on some of the gorgeous central Oregon trails I’ve heard so much about. I watched videos, read reviews, and made a mental list of which rides I’d be giving a go. I’m currently training for an amazing adventure tentatively scheduled for next spring (stay tuned…) for which I not only need to hone my off-roading skills, but need to purchase a well-fitting, trek-specific mountain bike.
Mountain Bike Oregon includes shuttles to the top of trails, a beer (& hopped cider!) garden, meals included, and what I needed most: access to demo bikes. I’ve only ridden an older steel Schwinn mtb named Bumblebee, who handles quite wonderfully, but I needed to get a feel for rides beyond what I’ve tried. Gearing? Wheel size? Never-ending, not-necessarily-needed accoutrements? I had no clue what worked for me, and I hoped this trip would give me a better idea. Oh, and the ability to improve my steeper, cliff-edged, curving, root-dropping, sketchier descents which I heretofore tended to hike-a-bike through.
The trip was phenomenal, it was an adventure, and all but one goal was attained. I feel fulfilled, and I can’t wait to head back out there to ride some more.
Having been lucky enough to have raced a wee bit of Portland cyclocross (thanks to the urging of a phenomenal friend and a group of absolutely wonderful people. I suck, by the way, but it’s really fun!), I had previously learned, with eyes wide and stomach in mouth, that the sketchiest of descents requires release – you have to stare down impending-maiming, take a deep breath, go relatively limp, shift your weight back, and just go for it. The slower you go, the more you try to brake, the more you hold on, the more likely you are to flip head-over-handlebars or crash in other equally damaging ways. Trust your bike, it will ride over most rocks and roots and mud if you keep your speed. Slow down and you’ll fail to gain needed momentum to overtake obstacles. It feels similar to technique for effectively skiing moguls.
This technique was never more apparent than on my trips through North Fork, an intermediate Oakridge trail, where the let-go approach sort of reversed itself. This lesson on descents is now ingrained in my muscle fibers, but I never knew that CLIMBING applied the same concept until I rode parts of this trail. Overtaking a bolder on an uphill? Relax and keep pedaling, and for gods sake, follow through. You’ve grunted your front tire up and over – good for you! But you have an entire second tire that needs to clear the rock. This is where the gearing on the Niner bike I demoed became essential. Keep the gearing low, release your fear and hesitation, and just keep pedaling. NO MATTER WHAT. My only crashes this weekend? T-tipping over (and down a small cliff) as I failed to get my back tire up and over something large, all because I hesitated out of fear that I wouldn’t make it.
And so the lesson that applies not only to riding, but to almost everything in life – relax, believe in yourself, and move towards what makes you afraid. You’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try, and you’ll never expand your world and yourself if you don’t loosen your grip.
TALK TO STRANGERS
Stranger danger! We’re molded by our culture to be afraid of, well, everything outside of our immediate family and friends and gated neighborhoods. But this is a large part of the beauty of traveling and exploring by yourself – you’re FORCED to interact with people you don’t know. And guess what was reinforced for me this weekend? Most people are good and respond to openness and kindness. This opening to the unknown is what I like to call “adventure”, whether it’s in the kitchen, on a trail, or in social interaction. This is what makes life fascinating and engaging and growth-producing throughout the years you’re lucky enough to have. If you were raised in a bubble-wrap-suburban childhood like myself, openness takes time and mindful practice to cultivate. But it’s worth it – it will change nearly everything about your life.
I encountered some absolutely lovely people that made this trip for me. Some from Oakridge (make sure to check out the amazing Ladies working over at Lion Mountain Bakery if you’re in town), some from California, some from Portland, some originally from New Zealand & the UK, some from Australia (and yes, the rivalry between the two is more than Flight of The Concords fodder), and all from varied backgrounds and age groups.
I owe it all to volunteering (the Nossa Familia coffee family is molto bene – check out their brews if you get the chance) and to accidentally hanging my hammock within the camp of a group of guys that welcomed me into their chats and beer garden jaunts when I wasn’t being anti-social with my reading and napping (the latter mostly due to gin…). They made me laugh, their personalities and guitar collections blew me away, and I truly hope to stay in touch with them. My weekend wouldn’t have been the greatness it was without all of these people, and I wouldn’t have met any of them if I hadn’t exited my comfort zone of solitude to talk to people I didn’t know.
GIN IS NOT AN APPROPRIATE SPORTS BEVERAGE
And finally, to the lesson of re-learning lessons. I spent most of my college years as a partier (and high school for that matter). I got great grades, I overachieved, and I got completely blitzed most nights of the week. Life, as it turns out, is more of an un-doing than a becoming – you have to work diligently to un-become the person your hometown, your family, and everyone but yourself has shaped you into. To really know yourself, to really be yourself, you have to figure that shit out on your own by forcing yourself outside of situations and places you’re comfortable in.
The process is particularly challenging if you grew up contorted – creating a habit out of forcing yourself into boxes that were ill-fitting at best. Long ago I acknowledged that I don’t like getting wasted – I’m so much happier taking all of that in moderation, waking up with the sunrise, and getting out to do something physical in the outdoors. Occasional partying? Sure. But on the whole, it’s just not who I am anymore – it was never who I was.
And so I reminded myself of that with gin and delicious cider this past weekend, as did many other painfully hung over riders. Chatting and hanging out with people was amazing! Drinking far too much was not, and was entirely my fault. I should know my limits by now… but once you’ve had a drink it seems like more and more of a good idea to keep on drinking, and old patterns reappear. If I had paced myself and been an adult, I wouldn’t have had the worst hangover I’ve had in a long time (I also could have avoided nearly falling asleep on a bathroom floor and being helped back to my campsite, which in my drunkenness I couldn’t find, by a good Lady Samaritan).
Yah, I embarrassed myself. But I had a great time with my campmates, reminded myself of my priorities, and ensured that I will never again forget the late-onset-drunkenness of gin. Next time I’ll make the same decisions – minus a handful of drinks.
Riding is magical, Oakridge trails are glorious, and people are pretty awesome. This experience was great and I’m on my way to getting a great mountain bike so I can continue to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors in new and sometimes-challenging ways. More than anything, this trip reinforced my gratitude. Gratitude for a working body, the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have, and the adventures I have yet to experience.
So get out there, Ladies & Lady-lovers! Adventure awaits, and nobody can find it but you :)
PS- The links above have more about the trails in Oakridge. If you missed MBO, head out on your own! The West Fir Lodge is a great B&B at the trail head, or you can head 30 miles down the road to Waldo Lake for camping and a 22 mile, easy-intermediate mtb loop with gorgeous views (plus kayaking!).
Until recently, I was under the impression that helmets could be either stylish or comfortably cool, but not both.
Sports helmets have holes and airflow that provide cooling comfort in the summer heat, but have a utilitarian nature that looks amiss with my biking attire. Gorgeous cap helmets look fabulous but turn my head into a sweaty, helmet-haired sauna. Le sigh – is there really no option that provides both?
Well, after a year of use – from daily commuting to legit, sweat-drenched biketouring through mountains – I can unequivocally say: I’ve found the goldilocks of helmets!
Sahn helmets, designed and made in Vancouver, B.C., make beautiful helmets that breathe. They’re on the pricier side, but the investment is well worth it. I no longer swap out helmets for long-rides, requiring both a stylish and sporty helmet to choose between. I now have one, lovely helmet and I use it for everything. Bonus points for a perfectly shaped and sized visor – it effectively keeps both rain and sun from your eyes.
The investment is worth it, plus you’ll be supporting the lovely small business owners (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a local trade show – kind, wonderful people) rather than a larger corporate producer.
So strap on some loveliness, head out wherever you’d like, and enjoy your gorgeous, well-dressed ride!
Happy Monday, Ladies & Lady-Lovers!
From a Copenhagen bicycle infrastructure innovation roundup, to electricity-free fridges and naked ladies, below you’ll find some interwebs interestingness to start out your week.
1) COPENHAGEN GREEN WAVES & MORE
This video gives the rundown of current biking advancements in Copenhagen, including a feature that tells you how fast to ride to get green lights (aka a green wave)!
Mayo – the sandwich staple. Looking for an easy, vegan, delicious option? Put the Vegannaise down and make your own! This article details three recipes for you to try at home. Simple ingredients, plant based, flavored how you like. Enjoy exploring this classic anew!
This article from The Atlantic (a highly recommended read!) details the USA’s wasteful, enormous, worlds-largest fridges and how these are a symptom of a larger food-transport and waste problem. Interesting insight into how our eating and food buying patterns feed into climate change, and how many foods we chill (like eggs) that don’t actually need it.
Want to escape the energy suck of a traditional fridge? Check out the luddite-loved Mitticool – it’s $50, electricity-free, and effective.
How often do you get to see lovely naked Ladies? Not often enough! The Nu Project is a photography series documenting Women’s bodies in all their naturalness and beauty, encouraging Women to embrace all parts of themselves. The benefits of seeing bodies that resonate with your own are beyond verbal explanation – this is the world before photoshop (despite its uses) messed with Womens’ understanding of our own bodies. The series continues to add photos, and round five for North America is now available for your viewing and empowerment. Potentially NSFW.
And we come to the fascinatingness of the week – another Maria Popova post. This time she reviews “Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light”, a book that discusses the inextricability of art and science – the importance of creativity and science, art and physics, in advancing one another. From the book:
The faculty we use to grasp the nature of the “out there” is our imagination. Somewhere within the matrix of our brain we construct a separate reality created by a disembodied, thinking consciousness… Consciousness, resembling nothing so much as long columns of ants at work, must laboriously transfer the outside world piece by piece through the tunnels of the senses, then reconstruct it indoors. This inner spectral vision amounts to a mental “opinion” unique to each individual of how the world works… When an entire civilization reaches a consensus about how the world works, the belief system is elevated to the supreme status of a “paradigm,” whose premises appear to be so obviously certain no one has to prove them anymore.
And you can always check out our Lady Editorial from last week, 100km To Freedom – how bikes can change your life… if you let them.
So read, enjoy, then head out and love the ride, Ladies!
There are myriad ways to run away from things.
Shut down emotionally, move to new cities every six months, speak appeasement rather than truth, silence an incoming call, leave an e-mail unopened, float along in just-comfortable-enough circumstances. Regardless the modus operandi, you find a way away from whatever it is that urges you to turn and run.
For a significant portion of my life, for a significant amount of reasons, I was the queen of running away. Switch majors, move to a new town, sink further into a not-quite-right relationship.
Risk of exposing whoever-it-is that I was – to myself and others – was quickly quashed in one way or another. And for a time, this pattern worked for me. It kept me comfortable, it prevented a rattling of cages I’d rather not open, and it allowed the conceptions of myself and my world created in the image of my parents and an ill-fitting hometown to remain intact.
But that’s the thing about avoiding reality and inconvenient truths: they don’t go away, and at some point you must choose to face them or cling ever-more-tightly to an inauthentic life. And living a life that isn’t your own? It’s a lonely existence. How can you really connect with anything if your can’t connect with yourself?
Well, at some point, I realized something was amiss. I couldn’t put it together, but I knew I needed something… an experience, an adventure, a break from my routine.
I never truly chose to face myself.
I just rode my bicycle 500 miles.
I still remember the 2×2 advertisement in Adirondack Sports & Fitness. I’d picked up the free local newspaper from a wire bin at a local eatery in upstate New York during year two of forcing myself through this-might-not-be-right nursing school. I’d seen several other ads for marathons, trail runs, even a 62 mile bike ride. “Those sound like a challenege, but I don’t know… They don’t seem like enough,” I remember feeling.
Enough of what? I don’t know. I just know that when I saw an ad on one of the final pages of the paper with a cartoon pig riding a bicycle for an event called “The Great Big FANY Ride”, I felt drawn to read more.
F-A-N-Y: Five hundred miles Across New York.
“FIVE HUNDRED miles? I can do that!”
Nevermind I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since I was a child, that I no longer owned one, that my fitness routine was primarily composed of napping, nor that the event was just over 2 months away. “I can do this. I need to do this.” I felt empowered by the very idea of attempting something so epic – something so entirely outside of my comfort zone. Without further thought of what it meant, I decided right then I was going to do this ride, and that I would finish. I signed up and paid the entry fee that day.
Next step: buy a bike.
Fast forward a handful of years, and the bike – Lady Steed – that original bike that carried me through excitement, frustration, pain, sores in all sorts of areas, repair-caused pinch-flat embarrassment, joy, and every other imaginable emotion and sensation that unearths itself during the physical release of endurance events has now ridden roads and mountains throughout the country, including those original life-changing 500 across the beautiful state of New York, racking up mile upon mile upon mile of self-propelled experience.
What I learned during that ride and those that followed wasn’t immediately clear, but what you feel with complete clarity is a shift – something significant cracks open.
While I’m in the saddle, I feel a kind of freedom I’ve never known before. I can go anywhere, I can see any place. Boundaries of all kinds lose their solidity. If you put in the effort and, more importantly, really believe in yourself, all is possible. That feeling of self reliance, even in the beginning when it was mixed with a healthy dose of doubt, is incredibly liberating. It’s life changing.
And so, as the pieces have fallen into better fits and lessons have settled into place, I can now see that riding my bike, riding it for more miles than I knew I could, brought me a sense of self that I couldn’t access through habits and ways of living I’d previously relied upon.
I found myself by running away. By running away towards something.
And so we arrive at now, where I’ve dedicated a significant portion of my life to bringing other Women along on rides they never thought they could accomplish. To providing a safe and welcoming entry point to the awesomeness of disproving self-doubt.
This year was the second annual Women’s 100 – a metric century bike ride started by Rapha, the bicycle accessory company. Women all around the world join together in riding 100km the same day as a Tour de France stage of the same length (a race that still lacks Women riders). Rapha is awesome for bringing this ride into existence, but the ride feels somewhat inaccessible to Women entering the bike world – it’s more for Women already racing and riding hard in the high-end gear Rapha produces.
So while a ride has launched from the Rapha headquarters in my city each year (an awesome ride with awesome, fast, relatively experienced Ladies), I’ve led a separate ride for Women who would normally hear “62 miles” and laugh at the sheer implausability of traveling that distance utilizing anything but a car.
That implausibility isn’t really about the distance – it’s the disbelief that you can accomplish something like that, especially in your current noodly-legged state. But as I have shown myself, that doubt is baseless, and proving it so is a magical experience.
The ride took off this year from the same location as last year, Ristretto on Williams (a wonderful coffee shop and roastery), with myself and a handful of others – experienced and not. The majority of Ladies rode further than they ever had before, putting foot to pedal for an adventurous tour of swimming spots, farms, beer-on-tap cycle shops (thanks, Cycle PDX!), street mandalas, almost-there tea, and we-did-it drinks. Sometimes the miles passed without notice, riding abreast immersed in each other’s company. Sometimes the smallest hill felt like hell incarnate.
It was the littlest taste of how things like this, pushing yourself like this, can change everything if you let it. It was a taste of freedom and happiness and the rolling hills of life and love and recreating yourself. It was an experience, and one every Lady should have the chance to be a part of.
And so we will ride next year. By mountains, by cities, by cows and random scenery. We will ride for the try of it. We will ride for ourselves.
And with that, I leave you for the week, Ladies. The featured photo for this post shows the brave and wonderful Women who joined our ride this year. Thanks to everyone who came, and hopefully we’ll see you next year.
Here’s to riding! May you find the ride that changes your life – may you find a ride completely your own :)
1) Physically separated, one direction bicycle facility*
2) Goes where “people want to be” (directly to commercial store fronts)
- Make it wider – riding a bike, unlike driving, is a social activity. It’s nice to be able to ride abreast
- More greenery :) never enough nature
- Continue the separated lane – dumping into traffic and disconnected networks are no bueno
* Why I don’t like two-direction facilities, even when they’re physically separated: accommodating space for both directions means each lane tend to be narrower; constant caution – as people pass, etc. coming towards you – makes riding less leisurely and less enjoyable