How Not To Be A Cyclist

Step One: Know nothing about road biking…seriously nothing. Zilch.

Step Two: Have highly unrealistic expectations of your physical ability to bike long distances on uneven terrain.

Step Three: (Attempt) to cycle 24 miles up and down the hills of Los Gatos at an ironman pace on a 20 year old bicycle.

Step Four: Wake up the next day and wonder if your limbs, like an un-oiled tin man, will actually make a creaking noise if you try to move them,


When I found myself in San Jose, CA one Spring I decided to join a cycling club, for want of a more interesting way to explore the Bay Area. I heard about the meet-up the old-fashioned way–word of mouth at the local bike shop called La Dolce Velo. I was most excited about breaking in my newly acquired Craigslist find–a vintage Motobecane Nomade. The intense bike-culture of the Bay Area had pressured me into wanting a bicycle, and a cool vintage one at that.

Like an article of clothing or a face tattoo, your bicycle brand and model really makes a first impression there.

I knew little about the status symbol that was your ‘cycle, and even less about looking convincing maneuvering a road bike. Exploring the far reaches of the South Bay ‘burbs by bike seemed like a great way to convince myself and others that I could be a cyclist too.

When I arrived to the store I was greeted by four middle-aged men donning spandex, riding gloves, polarized glasses, and pedal-clip shoes. They smiled at me from their state-of-the-art Bianchi road bikes. To round out this picture for you: I was wheeling in my 8-pound bicycle, wearing yoga pants, Nike Frees, and fake Ray Bans. I was the only female.

Why this didn’t seem to phase me at the time, I still don’t know.

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The long and short of it (because it was a looong ride) was that nearly cycled a Marathon that day. Might I remind you I’m a native Floridian, the biggest hills we have are those made by ants.

There is certainly nothing more rewarding than climbing a mountain you didn’t think you were capable of conquering (particularly a literal mountain). My fellow riders kept saying that if I had their kind of equipment (bicycles that weighed less than a safety-pin, with gears for biking on air), I’d be “leaving them in the dust.” How nice of them.

Likely this was an exaggerated lie, told to me as I tried to huff up one of the steepest climbs of that ride. I was close to vomiting and falling off of my barely-moving bicycle, while they all waited patiently at the top of the hill pulled off on an embankment. I can kind of see the scene now, like and out-of-body cartoon, all of them cheering me on secretly hoping they weren’t going to have to tow me home.

The next day I couldn’t feel my crotch, and I ate approximately four bowls of cereal for breakfast. I had no skin left on the inside of my thumbs, so I went around grabbing things oven-mitt style….But like most journeys that make you stronger, I’d do it all again.

Because honestly, these guys were some of the friendliest people I came across in all my time in South Bay. I recommend meeting them for a ride. Apparently they are not all as strenuous as the one I decided to tackle right out of the gate.

La Dolce Velo is an excellent bike shop full of super-educated bike enthusiasts. Which makes sense since there are some incredible rides and trails in the Bay Area for novices (myself), over-eager novices (myself), and Ironman pros (not me). Check out Bay Area Rides for ride inspiration.

Happy cycling!

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How Not To Be A Cyclist || Wend Away Travel Stories

About Kelsey

Kelsey is a dancer, wandering this world as performing artist and writing about it. She's skilled at forgetting her umbrella, getting lost, and eating too much cheese. Wend is her platform to share her nomadic lifestyle, and all the moments of beauty, grace, and hilarity that happen along the way. Join her as she finds her place in the world while dancing whenever she can.

2 comments on “How Not To Be A Cyclist

  1. As a cyclist myself, this was a hilarious read for me. I understand your struggles. Thumbs up for showing men cyclists what’s in you!

    • Thanks Maya! The struggle was real. Cycling isn’t for sissies! It was a very proud moment though.Totally worth not being able to walk for a few days. Thanks for reading!

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