Last spring, my first in Gunny, I wanted to ride my bike. The roads were clear of snow, the temperatures were pleasant and I was sort of injury-free. And, as it happens when you have kids and both you and your spouse are cyclists, I ended up riding a lot alone.
It was good. But it was also lonely. One of the things I love about cycling is the ability to create a bond with someone else while moving forward on two wheels. I have never been a "let's get to know each other over coffee" kind of person. Because what if two sips in, I realize we don't have anything in common and to be honest, I don't really like you?
It would be uncomfortable. Whereas on a bike? I can pedal along leisurely, ask you all the questions I want and if all else fails, talk bikes. One thing we will for sure have in common? Bikes.
So, being lonely and wanting to make friends, I got assertive. Every time I met someone new, one of the first questions out of my mouth was, "Do you ride?" And then it became, "Do you want to ride with me?"
Here is where it got interesting. This being Gunnison, the vast majority of women I met answered yes to the first question. The second question yielded a variety of answers.
At this point, I should say that I was emotionally to prepared to hear a "NO" to the second question from every woman I met. Not because it was personal but because many women already have set riding partners or they like to ride alone or whatever. I totally get that.
But no one said no. What most of them said was this:
"Ummmm....I'm kind of slow....and you look really fast...and I don't think I can keep up with you...and and excuses excuses excuses."
OK. STOP. I JUST ASKED YOU TO RIDE WITH ME. IF I DIDN'T WANT YOU TO RIDE WITH ME OR I THOUGHT YOU WERE TOO SLOW OR OUT OF SHAPE, I WOULDN'T HAVE ASKED.
Yes, that deserved all caps.
I hear this SO OFTEN (that also deserved all caps).
There are so many things I want to say about this. Which I guess is the point of this blog post.
First, ladies. LADIES. Listen up. Stop saying you're too slow or out of shape or don't have the skills. For the love, STOP. Every time you say that, you're trying to convince yourself it's true. Not only is it harmful, but it is some kind of annoying. Also? Do you want me to tell you that you ARE fast or that you ARE in shape? Because, honestly, I don't know. I haven't ridden bikes with you yet.
Which leads me to my second point.
I don't care if you're slow. I really don't. I want someone to ride with and I want to make friends. Hey, I'm not a pro. At one point, I raced bikes and sometimes I still do. But what you don't get is that just because you enter a race, you are not necessarily fast or a pro. Racing in and of itself does not make you an expert at cycling. I like to ride bikes. I want to ride bikes with you. Maybe I will wait for you at the top of the hill. Maybe you will wait for me at the bottom. Maybe I will never even make it to the top of the hill and you will be in the parking lot drinking beer by the time I limp back.
Don't apologize for being slow. Don't apologize for being fast. Don't apologize for being out of breath. Don't make excuses for your imaginary inability to ride.
JUST RIDE. SMILE. BREATHE. TELL A JOKE.
For crying out loud, have a good time.
And lastly, this: Why are women so freaking afraid to try something new on the bike? This is the most baffling to me. Most of my friends (and I) grew up in the post-Title 9 era. Sports were readily available to us as children. My high school years were full of marketing campaigns designed to lure women in to math and science. We were expected to be pilots and scientists and teachers and doctors.
So WHY are women so timid to go for it?
I don't get it. At all. Because what if you tried it and you didn't like it? Then you don't have to do it again because you're a full-grown person and full-grown people get to quit things they don't like and eat ice cream for lunch and stay up late watching crappy reality tv.
But what if you tried it and you did like it? What if you rode bikes with me and discovered that damn, you are good at cornering? What if you entered the Gunnison cyclocross race on a whim and ended up re-invigorated?
What if you stopped saying "I'm sorry" and "I'm not good enough"?
And what if you just rode your bike?