Monday, February 18, 2008

Biking How I Hate Thee

Yes, I'm a tri wanna be who pretty much hates cycling and I'm turning to y'all for some help. Both running and swimming I'll get a hankering for if I've been too lazy to work out in awhile, but I never think about cycling. I never want to get on the bike. It doesn't matter how nice it is outside or who I'm riding with (okay, that does matter a bit), I'm never really excited about cycling.

I've decided that a major reason for this is that I started cycling with basically Olympic-like cyclists who I could absolutely never keep up with and therefore consistently felt like an idiot and had absolutely no fun. This experience after many many times basically made me feel like I suck so bad that I think we could understand why I wouldn't be excited to get on the bike. And, don't be thinking that I'm exaggerating about their prowess because I'm not. The women I train with aren't normal. Last year my group sent more women to Nationals than any other tri group in the nation (or so my coach says so if that's wrong blame him). Seventeen (!) of the women I trained with qualified for and competed in Nationals.

You're likely thinking so why don't you just cycle alone? Do people really enjoy this? Do they do it? I don't know anyone who cycles/does training rides by themselves. Plus, I don't know as much about the bike as I should. That's embarrassing to admit, but there it is. For example, I theoretically can change of flat, but never have really had to do it myself. Not to mention, there really aren't places around where I live that you feel terribly safe riding by yourself. You head out of town and it gets real rural real fast and not a little bit freaky. I have done some rides by myself out of necessity when training for an event, but they've been few and far between.

I guess I'm just looking for stories of how others got inspired to like cycling. Was it immediate? Did it grow on you? Any recommendations for how I can get myself to like it more or at least just do it more?


Veg*Triathlete said...

This is a great question - Cycling can be really intimidating, I think. I have pretty limited experience, but I'll talk about what helped me get more comfortable on the bike. Note, my emphasis is comfort & confidence, not speed ;-) I'll let someone else cover that.

1. Ride slow & fun: I'm of the mindset that any and all cycling helps improve my base somewhat. So, my bike training ends up being a pretty mixed bag of riding: some rural roads, some paved trails, and lots of commuter/townie riding. Don't feel like all bike training means you have to be hammering it out in spandex.

2. Location: Rural roads are actually where I feel safest, but I understand the fear factor. Can you find just one or two other people to ride with? Even if they're slower than you'd like to go, it can help you get comfortable with a particular route that you might later enjoy riding on your own.

3. Drills: Practice putting tubes in & out of your tires. I was lucky in that I have a volunteer job that frequently allows me to change tires, but I've also practiced on my own bikes. You don't need to have a flat to practice - just do it a few times in a row. Let the air out of your tube, take it out, practice putting it back in again. It's good to get comfortable with your own particular tires, too, as they're all a bit different.

4. The academic approach: Are there any classes for maintenance/repair or for cycling in general? The more confident you feel about being able to tinker with the bike, the better you'll feel out on the road. The League of American Bicyclists offers a really good series of courses; check out Road 1 & II.

5. Take it indoors: I've been too intimidated to do group rides (plus, I'm not really a group person in general), but I've really enjoyed taking spinning classes. Due to weather, I'm forced to do a lot of my training indoors, and I'm finding that spinning & indoor trainer rides are great ways to do speed work since there's no danger of traffic or road debris involved.

6. Everything but the kitchen sink: When I go out for a longer training ride, I don't necessarily ride like I'm racing. I bring plenty of water & food, even though it means being weighted down and looking more like a randonneur than a triathlete. But in a landscape of endless cornfields where I'm likely to see more horses & buggies on the road than anything else, I don't want to have to worry about bonking or running out of water. It just makes me feel safer & more self-reliant. I also carry a map & a cell phone (even though I'm usually out of phone range... I still like having it).

And finally, a reason to go out & cycle: you can take pictures of your outdoor rides and post them on the blog to give those of us living in the frozen winter tundra of ice & snow some hope for the future. :-) Please? Show us some pictures of your northern California rides...

regina said...

I've been an avid cyclist for 2 years now. I know what you mean about everyone being faster than you. I'd recommend checking out with group rides where you live. Lots of bike shops can help you out with this. They offer different rides for diffreent skill levels. The more you ride the more comfortable you'll be.

I tend to ride alone because of training and I don't want to mess up the group rides when I do my intervals. There arne't many women cyclists where I live so I'm pretty much solo or riding with my husband. Riding alone isn't bad either, it gives me time to think and be quite. I bring my camera too and take pictures of the country.

As for knowing how to change a flat...just practice one night while watching tv. It's annoying the first time, but afte a few tries it's super easy.

the little one said...

Veg*Triathlete - that is some thorough advice! Wow. I hope your wonderful input helps more than me. All excellent ideas. I feel like I can't let you down on the pictures. We'll see if that can get me out there!

Regina - thanks for your suggestions as well! Changing tires while I'm watching tv is a great idea. Then, I won't feel so bad for indulging in ridiculous reality tv.

Veg*Triathlete said...

Sorry, I got a little comment diarrhea... I just want everyone to love cycling :-) And I'm trapped by ice & snow and currently going more than a little stir-crazy!

Matt! said...

I can relate because I don't really like exercise. I've been riding a bike in a variety of forms my entire life, but have only recently been using it for 'training'. I am having some trouble with looking at my bicycle in a new light, because to me it has always been for fun, adventure and exploration. The bicycle is an amazing thing, try not to let it be only a training tool. Use it for transportation and ride to somewhere. Go on an adventure to new place via bicycle. The majority of the miles I've ridden (tens of thousands) have not been for training, though now that I take part in races all of that riding sure has helped.

Veg*Triathlete said...

You did Cycle Oregon, didn't you Little One? Did you hate cycling then, too, or has it just been since riding with the uberfast group?

Mark said...

I just like riding bikes cuz I like how I look in spandex!

the little one said...

Sorry I haven't gotten back to the comments. I've been crazy busy not cycling. :)

Matt! - you're totally right. I actually really like bike commuting. I'm trying to drive as little as possible and just got a new "town bike" and absolutely love it. So, I guess I just don't like serious road cycling yet.

Veg*Tri - yes, I did Cycle Oregon. Nope, still didn't like cycling. Holy crap that was such pain and agony, but the worst of it was the cold. I just don't know how you cold weather bikers can do it. I almost died out there! That's not the whole truth though. I completely loved the accomplishment of it. I was so proud of myself after each and every day of Cycle Oregon. So, I guess there's that.

Mark - hilarious! Yeah, maybe if I looked better in spandex . . .

Tuco said...

Hopefully, the local bike shop or a bike group has something like Sunday morning group rides that you could join up with.
Most of the ones that I've done have a wide range of talent levels in the group - the pros zoom off into the distance after about 10 km, the people who are just out there for fun drift off the back, and if you're somewhere in the middle you look for two or three people going at your speed and join forces with them for the day.