A year ago I picked up cycling again. I say again, because I have been a fairly avid cyclist my entire life. To me there is nothing like getting on a bike, using my own energy to take me places. I love the excitement of going fast, the thrill of coasting down a hill, the sheer determination of working my way up an incline. Last year, though, when I dusted off my bike – I had a long way to go to get back to my joy riding days. I had a Motiv MTB that I picked up from Sam’s Club years earlier. It needed some work. It was in my favorite color, red – but that is about all it had going for it. I was not going to let that stop me though – NO WAY! It got cleaned up, tires pumped and I went out for a few miles. My ballet training had given me the ability to go for miles easily the first time – but I had completely forgotten how it would affect my rear. I also didn’t take into account the angle of my back and how my neck was crooked. Needless to say… I was sore. I persevered however, and worked my way up to almost 30 miles a day. My husband took pity on me, dusted off his super-duper Trek MTB and with a grand wave of his hand, I was off on his neon yellow Trek. The difference was amazing. I am rather long-legged, so a girls bike often is too short for me. This Trek was actually a tad too short for him as well, so it fits me perfectly.
As a child and young adult, I would often wander aimlessly for hours on my bike, rarely resting – but going at a sedate pace so I could soak up the sights. My motto was the road less traveled, and it fit my needs perfectly. I could go out as long as I returned before sunset. This lasted into my young married life as well – but the arrival of the rugrats (ahem, children) in my life changed my ability to just take off for hours on end. I had to utilize my time wisely. I had set times that I could actually leave, and it wasn’t always set in stone. I discovered a route that was easily to calculate mileage because the roads occurred at half mile intervals. Even out on my bike I could easily judge how far I had come. It became a personal goal as I was out to push myself to go further and further. The problem was always my time constraints. I wanted to do the 30 miles, but a MTB handles a bit more sluggishly then a road bike. I had the power, but it would burn me to be passed by a cyclist on a road bike when I was struggling with my beast.
The route that I take starts out easy. I swing by the “lakes”, which are actually glorified gravel pits. I have to travel along a decently busy road for a 1/4 mile stretch in order to get to the back roads I had found. This is probably the single most hair-raising part of the trip, because I have noticed that the people driving the cars seem more interested in me then the road they are on. I can’t say I am a show stopping person, but I think the site of a girl on a MTB on this stretch of road apparently surprises the heck out of them. As I leave the danger zone, I enter into a different world, full of fields, swamps and trees. The slopes here are very gentle and I often think of the next 3 miles as my warm up. I have been cautioned not to burn myself out on this stretch. I am eager to get to the fun parts of the ride and roll through this as quickly as I can. Not to mention that I am energetic at this point, and want to feel strong and powerful. I hold myself back though, letting my body warm up to the ride. I stop for a break before I cross the busy road and ride under the highway into deeper country. The hills here are still gentle, with a few dips to start to get the blood pumping. I pick up the pace a little now, unable to hold back my excitement to hit the hills (or what we call hills in Michigan… isn’t much, but it is all we got!). I love the next 15 miles of the trip – some of the hills are steep, some are gentle but long! There are few houses out here now – I am surrounded by a reserve, that is very swampy. Turtles creep across the road, dead animals litter the ground and become hazardous obstacles (not to mention the smell), and bugs are thick in the air. There are some points where there is no shoulder and if I go off the road I fall into the swamp. I’m really not big on going off the road, thank you very much.
You would think, with all of this going on, that I would find another route. I have to admit, I love it though. Some mornings when I go out, there is mist tickling the air and floating into the surrounding woods. It is so breathtaking I have to just stop and stare. The evenings are glorious as the deer start to wander out and bats dart through the air. I try not to be on the road as the sun is setting, for fear of cars not seeing me (even with my neon yellow bike), but there is something magical about hearing the birds settle down for the night, the spin of my tires on the road, and bugs humming in the air. I try to ignore the panting of my breath, as best I can, for that slightly detracts from the moment.
I hope you can see why I love going out. It is “me” time, where I don’t have to worry about my children, or the responsibilities I might have. I push myself physically, but I don’t have a mirror there staring back at me and giving me immediate feedback as to my form at the barre. I think my own thoughts, with only the mild interruption as to whether I ought to go left or right to avoid the snapping turtle in my way. I listen to my iPod for most the journey, but I have been known to stash it away into my bag and enjoy the music nature sings. I’m blessed to be able to enjoy our world in this manner.
I’m in a bit of a quandary now though. I have this glorious neon yellow MTB that has served me well. I am rather aggressive with it, but that hasn’t stopped it from being a good companion. I respect the abuse it has taken and want to show it more pavement. However, I really, really, really want a road bike. I want to see if I can actually do the distance in a shorter period of time (like I have been told). I want to see how fast I can actually go. I want it so bad I have obsessively looked at bikes on the internet, gone to bike stores, dreamed and saved up for one. The time has come to finally be able to purchase this road bike and I am being held back by fear. It is a fairly major purchase and I don’t want to mess it up. I don’t want my poor MTB to feel like I am replacing it either. My red Motiv already sits there in the garage looking decrepit and lonely. I want to do this soon, like in the next two weeks, but the choices are almost staggering – and I really don’t want to spend an arm and a leg.
So yes, my thoughts at the moment are less on writing and more on what step to take now with my exercise regime. Do I continue on with my MTB, enjoying the country as I do now – or do I finally purchase the road bike I have been fantasizing about? I also wonder if I would be better off with a hybrid given the country roads I traverse on. My own road is a dirt road, but the rest are paved. Well, I guess paved for Michigan.. which is notorious for having poor roads. The other cyclists I see on my route are on road bikes though, so I often think I would be just fine. If you have your own personal thoughts on the matter, feel free to comment or shoot me an email. I could use all the help I can get!
Happy traveling… find your road less traveled today!