Today we welcome guest blogger Gail Weinholzer, a new Florida Bicycle Association member and resident by way of Minnesota.
Growing up in an average size city, I was like most pre-teen and teen-age kids; my mode of transportation only had two wheels – my bike. As a 15 year-old, I earned my driver’s permit and couldn’t resist the first opportunity to trade in two wheels for four. Little did I realize I’d be going back to two wheels almost 30 years later.
Cycling for Fitness Began My Love Affair
When my doctor told me I was overweight and my cholesterol was too high, I knew I needed a lifestyle change that included exercising and heathier eating habits. So I bought my first adult bike and enjoyed taking it for a ride. It didn’t take long for that enjoyment to turn into a healthy, but somewhat expensive addiction. Five years later, I’m a self-proclaimed cycling enthusiast and achieved my personal goal of riding 2,500 miles last year. I’ve also challenged myself to a few biking events including a 165-mile round trip ride from Tampa to Orlando in two days as a fundraiser for Cure on Wheels. I’ve learned a few lessons along the way that I’d like to share with newer riders.
The Type of Bike Matters
When I first thought about resuming riding, I went to Wal-Mart, paid $100 for a bike and took it home. After all, what could go wrong? I liked the color! On my first ride with my friend, we were on pavement going up small hills. Midway through the ride, I had exhausted my energy and couldn’t push my legs up another hill that now felt like a mountain. My friend was on a road bike and as I learned from her, I was on a mountain bike. Her bike weighed less than half of mine and she had a much smoother tread. Granted I was out of shape, but the extra bike weight and rougher tread made the situation much worse.
My First Bike Shop Experience
Two weeks later, I sold the mountain bike and headed to the local bike shop to purchase something more suitable for my needs. I listened intently to their suggestions and went home as a proud new owner of a hybrid bike. I spent more money on it, but it weighed a whole lot less. I could do paved or crushed gravel trails of which there were many of both. They also took care of routine maintenance issues and showed me how to pump up the tires, oil the chain, etc. Biking became easier with the right bike and the development of stamina.
From a Hybrid to a Road Bike
The following year, I decided to upgrade a bit more. Again, the bike was lighter and it was a road dedicated bike. I had become more comfortable over time riding on streets and county roads, while becoming less interested in trails. I started riding in bicycle events. I bicycled not only to relax mentally, but also to be a bit competitive. More miles and new events also brought new aches and pains including a sore butt and hands. Back to the bike shop I went for bike shorts and gloves.
And Yet Another Bike
I started the next year with two bikes- a hybrid and a road bike until I had the opportunity to demo ride a really nice (and more expensive) bike at RAGBRAI. I was in love. Once I acquired that bike, I started training for a 165-mile ride three months later. I would never have imagined that I could have completed a 165-mile round trip ride over two days in Florida’s 92 degree heat.
You may have noticed I sold the first bike and acquired three more over the span of three years. My husband thought I was crazy and we agreed, much to my chagrin, that three was too many to store. So, I sold two of them and I was sad to see them go.
Bicycling as Part of a Well-Balanced Exercise Regimen
After I finished the 165-mile ride, I had an amazing sense of accomplishment, and I learned some physical fitness lessons as well. I trained exclusively on a bike for the ride so when I was done, my quads were in great shape and the rest of me was not. I could barely do a squat and definitely not a lunge. My IT bands were howling as were my hips. I went to a physical therapist who taught me the importance of training in balance and the importance of stretching properly.
Five Years Later
What key messages would I share with new riders? The type of bike matters as does the clothing you wear for comfort and visibility. Bicycling can be healthy for your body and mind. Your exercise routine must be balanced. One bike may never be enough – I now have my eye on another new bike, but don’t tell my husband. 🙂
Do you have a bicycle story to tell? Photos to share? Be our guest and be our next guest blogger! Send your story and photos to Becky@floridabicycle.org.
Speaking of stories, our quarterly Messenger newsletter is available online for your internet reading pleasure. Visit the FBA website Home page or click here. Want a hard copy of our Messenger? Join Florida Bicycle Association or visit one of our bicycle shop members to pick up our FBA brochure.