Arlen Gray pens her "bike story" encouraging women to hop on a bike and go somewhere. Do you have bike story you'd like to share? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello, Ladies! This is your long-time cyclist and cycling activist "Arlen," a name that is often mistaken for a gentleman's name, but, no...
It is true that the preponderance of cyclists who do "tours" or longer rides are guys, but we women are also out there as well. Many of us are highly competitive and competent (that is strong and fast) cyclists, and many are more like me - women who enjoy the sheer delight of moving from one place to another by bicycle. I also do long rides, but have had to pack up my pride a long time ago and focus on doing rides because I enjoy riding. I will never be in that first bunch, but I will always have a wonderful time - yes, even in rain, on hot afternoons, or stretches of road that threaten not to end.
Try it. And try it more than one time - it might take a few rides to grow on you, but, particularly if you ride with at least one friend, you most probably will have a good time.
Our whole society is so geared towards super "performance" that sometimes I wonder if we have lost the joy of enjoyment, and sometimes I have to remind myself of that aspect. I can feel inadequate or sad that I cannot keep up, but then I look at the trees along the country roads that bike tours generally take.
Rural Georgia is beautiful. The scenery is refreshing, with the many lakes, rivers, bridges, marshes, and forests. There are also cows and even horses, which I love to see. On one ride, there was a palomino mare with a little palomino colt. She was at the far side of the pasture, looked up at these strange "things" whirling past on the road... galloped to the fence for a better look, with her colt keeping pace adorably. Then, with a space between the groups, she returned to the far side - but - oh - more of "those things" - she and her baby made the return trip three times before I reached the area. It was a beautiful dance.
If you go with friends you will won't get "dropped," as being left behind is called. Most routes are very well marked, and cyclists ahead of you signal wildly and very clearly when there is a turn. Ride leaders keep track of who is in the group and do everything they can not to "drop" any riders. They also are thrilled to have new riders - the more the better.
Between the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, of which I am a long-time member, and the Southern Bicycle League (one of the oldest bicycling clubs in the US) with it's monthly FreeWheelin' magazine and list of rides for riders of all abilities, the only problem is which ride to choose.
Likewise, the Bicycle South shop and other bike shops have regular rides, as I am sure many outside-the-perimeter cycling shops do (I live in bike-friendly Decatur). Group rides are always instructive as well as fun. Try some.
Meanwhile, bicycling for transportation is beneficial in so many ways. Are you afraid to try it? Good! You should be - up to a point. I have used a bicycle for in-town transportation for decades. There are definite skills to learn in order to do it confidently, and that is a topic for another article, but watch for the ABC Confident City Cycling classes. They are a night and day experience - fearful before - confident afterward, knowing where to place yourself in traffic, what to watch for so as to avoid troubles, how to avoid troubles should they crop up.
Bicycling offers us so much, and I, at 76, astonish people with my flexibility and (relative) endurance. Cycling has to be a good part of the story - regular, gentle exercise keeps us going, ladies and gentlemen.
Do yourself a favor: exercise your bicycle and yourself by leaving your car at home and going by bike.