Yesterday I got up in the morning and did something I don’t know that I’ve ever really done before: a solo 20-mile bike ride.
It’s not that I’ve never ridden solo before — of course, I’ve done tons of that. Nor is it that I’ve never ridden 20 miles before — done that, too. I think I’ve just never gone out on a ride any longer than 10-12 miles without someone with me.
Recently I’ve been feeling more and more anxious when I think about riding on the roads — I don’t know why; it’s kind of a new development — and I’ve been using traffic as an excuse to keep my bike workouts indoors on the trainer. “I’ll ride more outside when school is out and the student-related traffic dies down,” I kept telling myself.
Before yesterday, my one and only outdoor ride this spring was Bike Bash, a huge group ride with police assistance at busy intersections. I hoped that would get me feeling a little more confident for road riding, and it did, but I still inwardly cringed at the idea of hitting the streets by myself.
Of course, I can usually persuade my husband to ride with me (he’s the more avid cyclist in this household, anyway), but I don’t want to feel like I’m dependent on someone else for my riding time. I also like to ride alone a lot of the time — by myself, I don’t feel like I’m slowing anyone else down (my husband is also by far the speedier cyclist in this household).
So. I had to do it. I got up, shimmied into my cycling shorts, found my helmet and my gloves and pumped up my tires and took my phone with me and off I went.
The ride wasn’t perfect. For one thing, I forgot one critical item: my water bottle filled with Nuun. I had to stop at a convenience store a few miles from home and the older lady working the counter just did not know what to make of me when I came up to pay for my water — “Did you ride a bike here?!” “Ah, yes.”
Once I got past the busy four-lane road near our house (which nearly gives me a damned heart attack every time I ride on it) and I made my way to some quieter streets with bike lanes, I started to get my rhythm. Traffic whizzing past me still makes me feel a bit panicky, though; I just can’t help it. I don’t know why, but at 9:00 on a Wednesday, it seemed like every single vehicle on the road was either a giant Mack truck or a pickup with the bed over-filled with loose lumber and construction equipment all bouncing around and ready to fly out and hit me in the face.
Nonetheless, I steeled myself and kept going. I knew that I’d soon find myself outside the state park on the south side of town where the traffic would disappear and I’d have access to a little bike/run path away from the main road. It was quiet and shady with the sunlight filtering through the leaves of the old trees along the path and no one to see except a few runners and a guy walking his dog. Lovely.
I stopped out there for a quick bite of fuel and a photo and just took a minute to enjoy the scene.
Once out of the park, I had to head back north through town and head home. I ran into some construction on one of my favorite side streets (one I usually use to bypass a busier road), so had to change my plans a bit. I also then found myself just a mile from home, but with only ~17 miles showing on my Garmin, so I made a last-minute decision to take some neighborhood loops and add on a couple of extra miles so I could hit 20. Numbers-obsessed, you say? Guilty.
I wound up at home about 90 minutes after I’d begun — not a fast time for 20 miles, but a pretty respectable first solo outing nonetheless. Traffic won’t ever not make me nervous, I suspect, but I will hopefully start feeling more confident the more I get out there, so I’m looking forward to making this ride a regular fixture this summer. Let’s go!