Cycling gives my life meaning. It’s simple really. I didn’t actually set out to find meaning or purpose when I took up cycling just a year ago; instead I feel that the open roads have found me. I’ve always been a relatively content fairly happy person before I discovered my love for cycling. However, there was always just something missing. A sense of wonder? A burning desire for adventure perhaps?
So how does one find purpose? A question many ask themselves and little receive the answer they are actually looking for. The process requires plenty of self-reflection, listening to others and finding where your passions lie.
Cycling is a newly discovered passion. It has given me a whole new meaning to life. In retrospect it has allowed me to begin living a more meaningful simplified life. With the hustle and bustle of today’s society, cycling has taught me to let go, breathe deeply and enjoy the ride. There’s something quintessential about the freedom of a simple bike ride can bestow upon you. For me, it awakens my soul, sparks all of my senses to come alive and brings out some of the best and worst of emotions. I always seem to find clarity on a simple bike ride however.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the bicycle became a powerful symbol for women’s emancipation. Alice Hawkins, a women’s rights advocate cycled around Leicester, a city in England, causing a public disturbance to be one of the first women to wear baggy trousers on a bicycle while promoting the women’s rights movement. During the fight to win the vote for women’s rights, the bicycle became an idealistic symbol for the women’s emancipation.
A famous quote from Susan B. Anthony wrote in 1896:
“I think (the bicycle) has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self- reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes the picture of untrammeled womanhood”
As a woman, cycling has empowered me. You will discover what your strengths and weaknesses are. You will suffer. You will understand what it means to be mentally versus physically though. A close friend of mine once told me “cycling is a cumulative sport” his words have always stuck with me since. Each ride we take is a chance for growth and improvement in ones riding capacity. There is a specific quote I unintentionally came upon that resonates with me.
“Too often I choose the pain of regret, but I can tell you the pain of discipline makes you wiser and stronger.”
In the short amount of time I’ve been cycling, I have experienced growth mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally making for small yet meaningful self accomplishments along the way. Some of which include experiencing Vermont for the first time, the green mountain state, where you are greeted by vast lush green hills, farmhouses and cows (lots of cows!). On May 4, 2019 I experienced what it actually means to bike up a “gap”. Easiest of the six gaps but still a challenging satisfying accomplishment especially for a young cyclist. Another recent accomplishment is actually completing the F.A.R.M Ride. The F.A.R.M Ride is one of Maine’s premier gravel grinder rides which offers a variety of challenges; 60 miles, over 6,000’ of climbing dirt roads which take you through the valleys most scenic routes. Afterwards you are rewarded with a burger, live music and a frosty cold First Mile Brewery Co. beer.
With accomplishments also come failures. If your a cyclist, you’ve heard the term “bonking” and I never quite experienced what true bonking meant until it happened to me. Not once but twice. With bonking come the emotions of what I like to call the triple D affect; Depleted, Defeated, Discouraged. Your emotions are out of whack and your mental, physical capacities are out of commission. It’s certainly not a fun or welcoming experience but it is a learning experience. The key is to always be prepared for upcoming rides which means hydrate well and properly fuel your body with enough nutrition.
Cycling has over time showed me again and again hidden strengths I never knew existed. Some of those strengths include courage, mental toughness and discipline. To gain courage means you have listen to your inner strength when faced with fear, pain of suffering. Each of us must confront our own fears; we must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it. The choice is yours. I once feared even the slightest sight of a hill. Steep and intimidating I knew the pain and suffering that came with that slow and steady climb to the top. But, even when everything seems like an uphill struggle, the courage to face all fears is well rewarded with a glorious view from the top.
Mental toughness. I feel that this strength has always been hidden within me. Cycling has indeed unburied this warrior mindset to never give up with every obstacle that interjects our path.
“Strong minds suffer without complaining; weak minds complain without suffering.”
This quote takes me back to the F.A.R.M. Ride. I knew this ride was going to be tough, by far the greatest challenge I’ve accomplished recently. However, I was mentally, physically prepared. I could have easily complained during this ride and grunt at the sight of yet another hill. But instead I welcomed the hills, I welcomed the pain and I welcomed the suffering. I was ultimately determined to finish this ride and finish it with a positive attitude.
Discipline. In order to be better, you have to put in the work. The beauty of this strength is that cycling doesn’t feel like “work” to me, in-fact it’s freedom on two wheels. Not to say I’m not working while I’m on the bike. I do set specific goals that I am currently working towards which are speed, strength training, endurance and distance. Being disciplined means being motivated enough to accomplish your goals. Every ride is one pedal stroke closer to becoming a better cyclist.
My closing message for anyone interest in taking up cycling is to simply enjoy the ride, it may unintentionally take you on a path to discover who you were always meant to be.