Freedom- it’s the first that that comes to mind when I think about cycling. Buying my first road bike was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. After high school I moved to Madison, WI. A college town that in the 13 years I’ve lived here, will forever have issues with parking and cramming traffic riddled streets with cars. Cars trying to navigate the tiny isthmus between our two massive lakes.
I found riding a bike to be one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways to get to where I needed to go. I started riding out of necessity more than anything, but it opened the door to some pretty amazing experiences.
My love for two wheels really started to grow when I decided to purchase an 80’s Raleigh Sportif. It was an old 12 speed bike with a step through frame and friction shifters. Having little experience with maintaining a bike with actual gears, I decided to ask a friend to help convert it to a single speed, in order to simplify the riding experience.
That bike took me between my two jobs, on bike camping trips, to commutes to the grocery store, and everywhere in between. I loved it. One of the two jobs I rode it to was at a local bike shop. A friend helped me get a job on the sales floor and it inspired me to sign up for my first ever charity bike ride. Working at the shop afforded me access to inexpensive or even free gear from fellow employees. I was able to purchase my first “road”, technically it was a cyclocross bike, for the ride. I had chosen to purchase a Surly Cross Check.
I picked it due to it’s versatility. I could put smooth road tires on it, I could outfit it with a rack or fenders, and use it for commuting. It fit the bill for everything I needed out of a bike.
My training rides consisted of rides around our beautiful lakes, commutes to my job across town, rides on the Capital City Trail, rail trail excursions, and even let me to do my first really long overnight ride. My partner and I rode to Governor Dodge on Military Ridge and back to Madison.
It became my obsession. All I could think about were bikes and cycling gear. I obsessed over components, what clothing to buy, commuter gear, and getting as many miles in as I could on that bike. I had worked hard all summer to save up for the bike between my two jobs. I wasn’t in school at the time and had been staying practically rent free with my partner in our tiny one bedroom in downtown Madison. It was a wonderful time to start a new, expensive hobby!
That summer we had also completed our first Wisconsin Aids Ride, known as the ACT ride. It was 300 miles in four days across Wisconsin’s famous Driftless region. Each day we cycled a different portion of the state and we camped at local schools at night. It was hot, the hills were hard, but it was incredibly satisfying to get to the finish at the Capitol Square, in the heart of downtown Madison.
Many hours of training, fundraising, and agonizing over gear to bring all paid off for that experience.
It truly changed my life and it’s led me to a passion that still burns within me. I enjoy telling people my story about how I got so involved with the world of cycling, because I started out to it being completely new and absolutely clueless. Yes, it can be intimidating coming into a new activity where you know absolutely nothing, but it’s worth trying it out. You never know where it may take you.
We have all been there and you are never completely on your own when starting something new. Just a reminder as you may be looking to hop into something that is new or scary.
Cycling led me to where I am today and it’s opened my eyes to so many wonderful things. It helped give me the confidence I needed to know that I can make it through something that is extremely challenging. It provided me mental and physical strength I never knew I had and I want to take a moment to reflect upon that and thank cycling for what it has provided me.
It’s a wonderful stepping stone into wellness and I would encourage everyone to give it a go!