Thursday, February 25, 2021

Back on the bike, and some thoughts about it

 I got interested in cycling nearly twenty years ago, at the urging of my good friend, Jill, who is a phenomenal athlete. We had some great rides together for quite a few years before she moved on to new adventures in Kansas. That same year, 2011, I started a personal bike challenge to raise some donations for the South Plains Food Bank’s GRUB farm—and I did it to raise money, of course, but also to give me an incentive to stay on the bike after losing a riding partner. It was also the year that my mother died, and because I processed a lot of my grief trying to finish the challenge at the end of the year, I am reminded of her almost every time I ride, even today. 

Neighbor Tim, who knows a lot about bike fitting, gave me free bike fit during my challenge ride after I had complained in a post on another blog (now defunct) about a knee problem, and I often remember this when I ride, too. Ten years later, that fit is still so good that when I clip in, it feels as natural as having a pair of wings must feel to a bird.

I am not sure why I sometimes quit riding. Injuries, lack of time, bad weather all play into it, though, and sometimes I can go for very long periods without getting on the bike. But when I do, I always wonder why I ever stopped. 

I started again briefly during recovery from my hip surgery, I was restricted to doing it on a trainer, however, since I wasn’t allowed to do anything that might cause a fall. But I hate the trainer, and so I quit that as soon as I was able to do other things instead. I would have ridden the bike out on the road then, but I did not yet have the mobility to swing my leg over the top (I used a step ladder to climb on it when it was on the trainer). 

I’ve climbed back on the bike—and the road—during the pandemic (like a lot of people), as a safe way to get some exercise, and part of the joy of it has been all these wonderful memories that have been waiting there for me all along.

In the past, when I was much more serious about it, I avidly followed bike racing. That soured a little with all the doping scandals, though, and I drifted away from it. But I love to watch sports that I play, and I missed it. So I started watching that again, too, for inspiration during the rides on the trainer, and I have continued it. Which brings me to this: Sometime during my long hiatus from watching bike racing, women cyclists finally started to get some parity. Actually, from what I can see, that “sometime” seems to have occurred mostly in the last couple of years. When I stopped watching bike racing, it seemed like you couldn’t find a women’s race _anywhere_ that you could watch. Women’s teams and races existed, but they were always in the shadows, with lousy pay, lousy support, and poor coverage. Now, much to my delight, it seems like that is changing. This Saturday, the first of the spring classics, Omloop het Nieuwasblad, is broadcasting not just the men’s race, but the women’s as well! You can bet I will be watching. And! There is news that Trek Segafredo—a top World Tour team—has decided to give their women’s team the same base pay as the men’s team. And! Another top world tour team, the Dutch team Jumbo Visma, has created a women’s team along with its men’s—at the request of the sponsors! And! For the first time in its 125 year history, the men have decided that women will not permanently damage their childbearing lady parts by riding on cobbles and have allowed them to race the classic Paris-Roubaix (the aptly named “The Hell of the North”).

It’s like I went to sleep for a while and woke up to a new world. 

I don’t know if there is a paywall on this video (I subscribe to Flobikes where you can see the race in its entirety) but if you _can_ watch it, I suggest you give a few minutes of your time to the recent UCI Women’s World Championships of cyclocross (link below). It is impressive stuff. This is just a highlight reel—but they raced at this intensity for over an hour. And if you have ever been someone who has thought women’s sports are not as exciting as men’s, then this is something you need to see. And imagine, it has been in the shadows all this time.

Women’s cyclocross world championships highlights

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