A week ago, I watched a Specialized-lululemon video about how their female team got involved in cycling and then eventually into racing. This video took some serious tugs at my heartstrings (yes, the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day) because any woman who’s ever raced a bike or tried group riding can relate to these feelings: “I’m scared to ride on a road with cars”, “I got dropped on a ride”, “I never thought I’d race a bike…especially a criterium”, “how do I change a flat tire?”
Recently, I finally got back on the yoga mat and it got me thinking about how beautiful of a sport cycling really is and just like yoga it really is a “practice”. Think about it for a second. Every workout on the bike is just like laying your mat out in the studio…you come with an open mind (positive mental attitude), you set an intention (or your coach’s scheduled TrainingPeaks workout), you have a focal point so you don’t tip over (maybe it’s that town line sprint sign or mailbox at the top of a climb), maybe you challenge yourself in a new pose (be willing to set a goal, whether it’s short term or long…try…fail…and try again...succeed...set a higher one!), offer strength to those who need it in the world (maybe it’s an encouraging comment to your teammate or advice on how to improve), the power of breath (I’m still trying to OM shanti shanti my way up those hills) and offer love and light back into the world (share your passion with your community).
My local Specialized shop, Phoenix Cycles in Phoenixville, PA asked myself and local female ambassador of cycling awesomeness, Beth Fayant to lead a “Specialized Women’s Day Ride” on Sunday, March 18, 2012. We had about 40 women of all different skill levels from experienced Cat 2 racers to local weekend trail cruisers set forth on a 28-mile tour of beautiful Montgomery Country with a stop at our favorite local coffee shop, Java’s Brewin’ in Royersford, PA. Even though the weather was overcast for most of our ride, it was so great to catch up with some of my sunny disposition-ed Philly/SJ friends like Kelley Bethoney, Dana Hanchin, Barbara Statton, Lara Marek and Sara BM to reminisce about what it was like when we first started out and share our stories with new friends. For instance, Barb and I both had “shifting” issues when we first started riding. Barb said she always wanted to put her bike in the harder gears and mash it, while I didn’t know how (or bother to care how) to get from big to little ring on my 1986 Panasonic w/ those down tube shifty thingies. Side note: high fives to Barb and Dana for showing a few ladies during the ride when/how to get out/in of those big/little rings!
Learning is my favorite…next to smiling. So, I learned a few things today about leading my first group ride:
Learning one: find out from each woman what her level of riding is.
Learning two: split 40 women into two or three groups of different levels to keep the groups together and safe.
Learning three: patience is a virtue…at first, riding slower was taxing but then I got to thinking, “when do I ever take time out to enjoy a leisurely ride?” Channel your yoga practice into the bike, McClure. Be present. Enjoy the moment. Breathe.
Learning four: everyone has a story…ask them how they got into riding…tell them how you got into riding. You’d be amazed at the stories you hear!
Learning five: never stop learning. Be open to suggestions. Give suggestions from a good place and not one of ego (something many athletes and type A’s need to chick-ity check themselves on from time to time.)
By the end of the ride, as my friend Dana Hanchin would say “my love bubble” expanded for this sport (and my friends…new and old) because it empowers women to never stop exploring by challenging ourselves mentally and physically from what we think we can’t do and turning it into something we believe we CAN actually do. Thank you to all who came out to ride, to my navigator and good friend Beth Fayant, Phoenix Cycles, Java’s Brewin’ and especially Specialized who continues to empower us to create a community of support for women’s cycling. As lululemon athletica says, “Do one thing a day that scares you!” You never know. You just might surprise yourself.