Journey(wo)man – A Beginner Rider’s 100 Mile Story
“Hi my name is Michelle and I’m a beginner cyclist.”
I’m on a quest to gravel grind through a 100-mile race in less than a year of riding. Why? Well, a multitude of reasons.
- Former runner with bad knees looking for a new way to get my endurance fix.
- To figure out why it’s so gosh darn hard and intimidating to get new butts on bikes.
- To provide content for beginners from a beginner in beginner terminology.
- And to inspire more ladies to join me! Heck yeah!
Living in Colorado and being minutes from gorgeous trails, I have spent most of my last two years here outside hiking and dabbling with trail running. Quick context – I’m a former D1 collegiate athlete but have undergone a number of surgeries and procedures, and have constantly nursed running injuries since. But after a few years of frustration and genuinely losing the joy of running, we are on a break. It’s like a relationship you really want to work, but you realize you’re forcing it, and you need to step back to evaluate. That’s me and running right now – maybe it’s temporary, maybe it’s permanent, but either way I’ve felt myself spinning and losing routine with nothing to fill the void that running filled for me.
As Life Time’s Senior Marketing Manager of high endurance events, including Dirty Kanza and the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, I have spent my days living, breathing, learning and understanding the cycling consumer. Over that time, I also started to get an itch to ride. So I went out and bought a bike – it was the most cash I’d dropped on a bicycle before (I grew up riding bikes from Target or Toys R Us). But I quickly learned that riding an $800 hybrid bike is not cool and does not get you invited on rides with others! Whoops!
Working within the industry, but still feeling like an outsider, did two things – made me fall into infatuation with the sport, while also turning me off of it (purely out of intimidation of the barriers). Here are a few things I learned:
- Cycling is both accessible to everyone (we all have a place to ride, albeit road, gravel, trail) while also NOT accessible to everyone (cost!!! being a huge barrier of entry)
- The cycling community is so friendly, welcoming, passionate and encouraging – once you are in it
- Getting an invite to ride without having a decent bike is just…difficult
- People are intimidated by all of the terminology, technology, mechanics and gear. It’s a lot to learn and digest
- Riding your bike can be scary when you don’t totally know what you’re doing
But how can you not be inspired by the thousands of athletes you engage with all year, watching their journey through social media and standing on the start and finish lines of some of the world’s most iconic cycling races? So at the end of the summer I said “screw it” and took my clunky hybrid bike out on the trails and within just a few rides, knew the little inklings I’d been holding onto for the last year and a half were real – I wanted to be a part of the cycling community. But knowing how intimidating it was for ME, the former competitive athlete surrounded by cyclists and their knowledge and the great riding community of Colorado, I wanted it to be about more than myself.
I’m lucky to work with rockstar rider, cycling visionary, and female leader in the sport Kristi Mohn. Together we have spent the last year talking about how to get more women’s butts on bikes. She’s lead that charge through her 200 Women 200 Miles campaign at Dirty Kanza and the DK Women’s Training Camp, and we have since expanded that into the Women Ride The World initiative, a social community for women across all cycling disciplines. After saying out loud to Kristi that I wanted to buy into the sport and race 100 miles next year, it felt like the perfect opportunity to chronicle the process and speak to beginners like me, or non-beginners who can look back and laugh at a time when they were in my shoes! Salsa Cycles jumped on board to be a part of it and gave me a Journeyman to ride (how fitting, as this is a personal journey for me). They also introduced me to Salsa ambassador Crystal Kovacs and I’m so stoked to learn from her!
And so here I am, a few weeks in and making a public proclamation that in 2020 I’ll race the Land Run 100 and the Dirty Kanza 100. I’ll keep you looped into that journey, talk to you in layman’s terms, and hopefully discover not just the root of some barriers into the sport, but how we can fix them.
To close, here are a few laughing and learning moments from my first few weeks of riding:
- Pulling only your front brake as hard as you possibly can while reaching for a gel with the other on a pedestrian path going downhill does NOT result in anything fun or good for your body. Yes, I did this. And yes, I crashed hard.
- Wear your helmet!!! I’ve seen SO many people riding around without a helmet. You can only control your controllables, but you can’t control if another cyclist isn’t paying attention, if a car doesn’t see you, etc. Your brain is your friend – protect it!!
- Riding a better bike makes for better riding. Bless my hybrid bike and its done its job, but wow getting on the Journeyman made such a difference.
- Kristi Mohn telling you that if you go to DK Women’s Camp, you gotta learn how to clip in seemed like sound advice because, well, it’s Kristi! But LOL when I told others that, they told me I was insane. I had a friend change my pedals and I bought cycling shoes and heck yes I showed up to camp ready to clip in (mind you, I’d only done it 3 times before camp so I’m not gonna claim it looked good) *shrug*
- On that last note – I learned you clip IN to clipLESS pedals. That was so confusing to me. Alas I now understand where the terminology comes from, but still…confusing!!!
- Invest in a good chamois. That is all I’ll say on this point. 🙂
Follow along the rest of my journey at @womenrtw and #journeyto100. You can also find me on the ‘gram at @meeeshyd!