Riding with the Brakes On…


When we went on RAGBRAI, I fully intended to update the blog daily.  I was also taking tons of pictures for all the social mediaz, but on Day 2, we lost our cell service. Spotty coverage coupled with the throngs of humanity overwhelming the towers meant that it was nearly impossible to even send a text message. Not only did I not update the blog, but I also didn’t get to talk to the I-tots, Little I and TD.  That was hard. But, the kids are home and I still have 5 days of bike riding excitement to share, smattered in the next few posts.***

Days 1-3 were pretty cool. On Day 2 we added the optional Karras Loop to our route in order to make our ride more than a century (100 miles).  It was hard and finishing it made me emotional, but I’m grateful we took on the challenge. On Day 3, I was pretty sore from hauling in order to complete the previous day’s loop in a reasonable amount of time, and it was very windy, but we still finished at a decent pace and with energy to spare.

Then, on Day 4 I felt like my legs were just out of power. It was hardtricepser to turn the pedals and I had to lower my gear. It also stormed. On Day 5 we rode with friends, including a friend who rides a heavy hybrid bike like I do. I felt like I was working really hard to keep up with everyone.  Day 6 started to get hilly and I felt like I struggled to turn my pedals on the hills, even in a low gear. Day 7 was exceptionally hilly and hard and, while I finished each day, I took note that I seemed to be working so much harder than everyone around me. The breaks between the rides were hilarious and the food was awesome, but the rides became more challenging each day. Others passed me, easily having conversations, but I felt like I was putting all of my focus on moving forward.

I told Strange that I felt like I was working so much harder and going so much slower, and thought maybe it was because my bike was so much heavier than the road bikes others were riding. He remarked that my bike was “crappy” and when I got indignant, he said that my rear wheel wobbles. When we go home, he turned my rear wheel and the brakes rubbed the wheel with every turn. I probably felt like I was working so much harder because I was working so much harder. It’s totally possible that I rode Days 4-7 with my brakes partially engaged.

I grew up in the suburbs of East Los Angeles, in the Inland Empire and there was not a lot of fitness bike riding in the ole “IE.” Many of the bikes looked more like this…

lowrider bike

And a lot less like this:

tour de france

I tooled around on a banana-seated beauty as a kid, but I only learned to ride a bike for sport a few years ago. I’m not bad, and I’ve now accumulated much of the requisite gear to look like the folks that I ride with, but the mechanics and culture still feel very foreign to me.  I try hard to fit,  but I still learn so much every time I ride with someone else. As each day passed and the rides got harder, I figured that it must be because I’m a novice, or because I wasn’t as strong as the other riders. It never occurred to me that there might be something wrong with my bike that was slowing me down.

I had a great time on the ride and the real highlight was meeting fellow Iowans as we rode across the state. People were so welcoming, opening their homes to us, and always made us feel like they were happy that 10,000+ people were descending on their town. I had so much fun talking to people and learning about the different towns. But, I am still kicking myself for not having more confidence in my own abilities and not realizing that the issue wasn’t my fitness, but the situation around me (aka, my back wheel).

***I’m not going to say that this post is a metaphor, but maybe it’s a metaphor. Maybe about feminism or diversity or something? Maybe that’s too deep for a Tuesday morning.


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