The Right Hand
If you get to spend a lot of time in a bike shop like I do, you will hear a few things over and over from different mouths. Things like: “I am not a serious rider, I only ride X times a week(month/year)”, “I am not very good, I only ride (insert difficulty level here)”. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t matter if the frequency of riding is almost everyday, or twice a year, or the level is gravel paths or double-black-diamond trails. People are self-conscious. I understand it as a negative consequence to living in paradise.
Squamish is an outdoor sport haven, a Mountain Bike Mecca, and as such, it attracts extremely high-level athletes and all sorts of Sporty-Spice(s). These people are athletic, motivated and competitive. They look so cool!!! And… so intimidating!
And, so unlike the rest of us.
Let me tell you my story. Like everything else, cycling has changed its meaning to me over the years, especially so the last decade. Ten years ago, I was riding rental bikes around Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paulo (Brazil) every month or so, and I swear that was the only way I felt free. I always thought bicycles were “a simple solution for very complicated problems”, but commuting was just out of question being a woman in a twelve million city, in a country that is one of the ten most violent against women in the world.
So, the laps around the park remained my only escape from the world’s issues.Fast forward a few months, I had landed myself in Squamish and had been lent an old mountain bike. Was I in for a treat! I went out after work every single day, no matter the weather, no matter how much my cantilever pads squeaky, no matter how much I got lost. I was also getting everywhere on a bike! I was completely, fully and irretrievably in love with cycling and I didn’t know anyone else that was. When I became aware that other people loved it too, I was excited. Little, by little though, every time I rode with a group of people (on a MTB) I fell a little out of love. I was told what to ride, how to ride, what to wear and how to behave. I was competed with. You see, I am a competitive person, but not on a bike. Play Cards Against Humanity with me, or basketball, or let’s debate, then you will see that I can be furiously competitive, but no, not on the bike. It took me a while to figure this out. I went from riding a mountain bike everyday to hardly ever riding (although I rode plenty of other bikes).
At first, cycling meant pure freedom and childhood wonder. Then, it became this thing I had to do. I had to get better to keep up with people, I had to be faster,I had to ride gnarlier trails, I had to ride because I live in Squamish. It became a chore. I am telling you this because I don’t want it to happen to you. I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be anything! It doesn’t have to be mountain biking just because you live here. You don’t have to go fast, often, or do things you’re completely terrified of. We all have our outlets for this kind of energy, cycling doesn’t need to be that for you.
For me, cycling has to be fun. If it’s not fun, I am not interested! To me, cycling is about endurance (physically and mentally),is about challenging myself, is about conquering mountains. To me, cycling is also a way of getting around, a way to be in nature, to feel the wind in my hair. To me, cycling is an excuse to wear a tutu.
Remember, bicycles are “simple solutions“ and “nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride” (JFK). Simple. This simplicity only comes from being true to what is meaning is to you.
So, do your thing, don’t let people tell you what it should be. Don’t let people tell you what you need for gear either, unless you feel they understand your needs. People usually tell us to wear/use the gear that is good for them, with good intentions, but what is it they want to do? What is it you want to do? Bikes don’t need to be expensive or complicated, but they can be. If you want to be a gear nerd, do that. If not, trust your local bike shop. At Republic, sales people are trained to listen to you, your needs and what cycling means to you. If you want to go be a mountain biker, or a roadie, or a commuter, or just ride, do that. Do group rides, do races, be a lone-wolf, ride with your partner, pedal every day, pedal only to the grocery store. Whatever.
Enjoy your bike, that is what is there for.
So, what does it mean to be a cyclist? Nothing. Whatever you want. Don’t be self-conscious about it.
The bicycle is a simple vehicle to… [insert destination here].