Thursday, May 27, 2010

How I Got My Bike Groove Back

I fondly remember learning to ride my bike.  I grew up next door to a nursing home which meant we had a great big smooth concrete parking lot to toodle around on.  And since it was a teensy, weensy town that parking lot was rarely ever busy, save shift changes and Sunday dinners.  Like so many others, I have a distinct memory of sailing through the parking lot with my dad holding on to the back of the bike.  I remember the wind in my hair and that first taste of freedom.  I don't recall if I ever rode with training wheels but it really doesn't matter...I was hooked. 

My first new bike was a purple Western Flyer Miss Buzz Bike.  That bike was so full of right on!  When I outgrew it I got a Western Flyer ten-speed.  I rode that bike everywhere! When I turned 14, like most kids in my microscopic hometown in the heartland, I got a moped.  Mine was a Yamaha...a Yama-hopi, according to the commercials.  We literally had gangs of 14 and 15 year olds cruising town and to the lake on our mopeds.  Of course the driver's license came next and it wasn't until college that I got back on my bike - that old 10-speed to be exact.

I rode too and from campus every day, slowly getting my biking muscles back.  When it came time for RAGBRAI one college summer I decided that I should give it a shot. I was an Iowan and a cyclist, RAGBRAI is kind of a requirment. I ended up riding that ride and many more. 

Fast forward several years.  A move to Colorado, a growing career, and a decision to rid myself of worldly possessions and move to Africa all got in between me and my biking.  Eventually I sold my bike and a few years later had my first child.  Biking wasn't high on my list and life stayed that way until after my youngest was born.

Even though I stopped biking for several years I never stopped running. So getting back on the bike wasn't that difficult.  I was in good shape, just needed to work different muscles.  First on the list was getting a bike.  I researched and rode literally dozens of bikes.  I had two bikes that were top of my list - a Specialized and a Trek. Good, solid, highly recommended mid-level road bikes.  However, in all my test rides I kept going back to this little K-2 women's specific bike at REI.  I wasn't sure what to do.  I wanted to patronize a local bike shop not a mega-store AND there was very little written on K-2 road bikes, although they make respected mountain bikes.  Ultimately I took what I think is the best advice on bike buying....get the one that fits the best.  I named her The Lowrider because of her funky airbrushed-looking paint job.

 I've now ridden that bike over a thousand miles and I don't regret the purchase at all. It's never needed more than a basic tune up.  It has solid mid-level components and I have no intention of upgrading.  I'm not one who bikes for speed but I do like a nice light weight bike to take me far.

With a new bike in my hands, the first order of business was to get ready for RAGBRAI.  I'd not done one since my mid-20's and I decided a great 39th year accomplishment.  I recruited G and my step-daughter to be our crew, got my brother and my buddy M to ride with me.  My brother has probably 10 or 12 RAGBRAI's under his belt and M probably the same.  I met M on RAGBRAI in the early 90's and we've been great friends ever since. 

The ride went off without a hitch.  I didn't wipe the smile off my face a single time the entire week...well except maybe that day when it was pouring rain with heavy winds.  I sagged that day.  A great thing happens when you're older, sagging becomes no big deal - well, at least not that kind of sagging.

Because of logistics I wasn't able to do the ride last summer.  I'm still trying to figure out a way to do at least a couple of days this year since I need to make several trips to Iowa to take care of some family business.    Both my kids are shaping up to be great cyclists and I'm hopeful we'll do lots of bike tours as they get older!

Morning Sun

The legendary Team Bad Boy.  They used to bike to Iowa from Boulder, Co, ride RAGBRAI, then bike back to Boulder each year.  I assume this is still the drill.

A little night time tornado sent us from our tents into the high school gym.  Not sure what the other 10,000 campers did.  The next day was century day. Nuttin' like riding a hundred miles on 3 hours of sleep.

Century day brought more tornado's and we held tight while the storms went by, 
they were giving away free food after all!

Pour old corn crib!

Bikes.  Lots of bikes!


Can you believe Lance actually passed me?  Going up hill even! And I thought I'd trained well.

Pork Chooooopppppp!!!

Happy Bikers!

Shrimp boil, cheap beer and root beer floats.  RAGBARI is probably the only 500 mile bike tour where many people actually gain weight!  Pie is especially important and often written about like this DM Register article about RAGBRAI Pie - "I had some delicious peach and raspberry pie and I decided to have it because we heard that's what you're supposed to do on RAGBRAI," said rider BR. She said she planned to try a slice of the pie at every stop."
 "During RAGBRAI, Iowa bleeds pie, necessitating an ice cream drip." (A Nod to Nothing)

My first ever ride in an ultralight.  There's really nothing like the feeling of flying through the sky in a lawn chair with a small motor and wings attached.

Ahhh, the Mississippi - almost done!

Still smiling at the end.

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