Written by Asha Baines
Is it just me or does it seem we live in a time where we are expected to be an expert at everything. If we are all faking it till we make it, have we lost the ability to ask for help?
I am a beginner cyclist. There I said it. Like many, as child I spent my childhood riding a bike. After a horrible crash when I was 9 years old I stopped riding altogether. I decided there were plenty of other things to do instead. Then a couple years ago after a hip injury I was told by a doctor I could never ride a bicycle again. ‘Never’ is a strong word asking to be challenged. Rehabilitation turned into fitness. As my body grew stronger I looked for different ways to challenge it. Last year it seemed all my friends were either doing cycle events, triathlons or ironman. I wanted to join in, I had the fitness level, as a spin instructor my body could go through the motion of cycling but I couldn't ride a real bike.
Late last year a friend put the call out, Lets do Gear up Girl. I was in. I remembered the photos and smiles of friends from the year before. Gear up Girl looked fun and accessible. I was ready to tackle the big one, get back on the bike… but then what? A couple non cyclist friends quickly quipped “everyone can ride a bike” “don’t be ridiculous, its just like riding a bike - wink” . You can imagine my eye roll at that one. So, to stop being so “ridiculous” I took myself to the local bike store. Fear is real and my heart raced as I entered the store. I must of “faked it till I made it” as I was left to myself to wonder and pretend I actually knew what I was looking at. Every bike looked like a spaceship with no instructions, so I quickly but ever so calmly made my way to the exit.
I got home and asked myself why did I not ask for help? Cyclists seem to be part of there own community. They ride in packs, get up and somehow co-ordinate a ride together, actually know about the gear - bike brands and types of bikes, they wear special clothes and at the cafe they sit together post ride. They don't seem unfriendly (like a pack of mean girls “you can’t sit with us”), but somehow unapproachable. They have their world and I was very much not a part of it. But I am not a shy person .. so I decided to reach out.
First to my friend Jo. An avid cyclist, triathlete and casually has done 2 half Ironman events. I asked the simple question - how do I get / choose a bike? Straight away, without a moment of hesitation “You can borrow mine!” Our conversation went on. But I can’t ride, not only would I need to borrow for Gear Up Girl but for months as I learn to ride. What if scratch / smash it?? I got a calm “Yes Asha, and at the end of the day its only a bike, I want you too.” “You can do this!”
So I put the call out to my cycling friends first. Everyone who asked wanted to help me learn or ride with me. Then word spread, acquaintances, friends of friends and members of my gym all wanted to get involved. There experience levels went from advanced to casual riders. Not only did they not care that I was a beginner, they were excited to share knowledge, hints, tips and a coffee after. No-one thought I was “ridiculous” but wanted me to be part of their community. Everyone filled me with confidence that I could do this ride. A friend in my local running group advised that she was part of Cronulla Triathlon Club and they offer a Beginners Bike Skills course, to help gain bike handing skills and confidence. After procrastinating for a few days I contacted the club and again I have been meet with nothing but kindness.
What was I so afraid of. Other then my cyclists friends, When I ask other women to join me for Gear Up Girl I get a whisper back “ I haven’t rid since I was a child” I loudly and proudly say “Neither have I”.
I have learnt the lesson - Its okay to be a beginner, because the cycling community is ready to welcome you as soon as you ask.