I took the training wheels off my first bike when I was about 10 years old. I was always afraid of bikes, even riding on the sidewalk. My mother embedded my mind with the idea that they were extremely dangerous, so that’s what I always believed. Well, thinking back, my ten-year-old self would have shit her pants if she knew that ten years later, she’d be riding through the streets of the New York on a bike. Oh, and with no brakes. That’s pretty funny.
A little more than seven months ago, I started riding a track bike. I never thought I’d be into such a thing. I’ve played sports such as basketball and soccer growing up, so I thought I could incorporate some of my athleticism from that into riding; I was wrong. What cycling does to the body is completely different from any sport I have ever played. Cycling takes more than that five second burst of energy to shoot a basketball into a hoop or a soccer ball into a goal. I wouldn’t even say it was a sport, but an art. I learned that it takes extreme discipline, control, awareness and confidence to even consider cycling and actually be good at it.
In the beginning, getting on my bike and riding in the Bronx down Kingsbridge Road brought back the ten year old in me; I was hyperventilating and constantly worried I’d fall off and break all the bones in my body. But watching my boyfriend Jonathan (the person who convinced me to try track bikes out in the first place) and the way he had so much control over his bike, showed no fear, and moved so swiftly through cars and street lights had me in awe. I wanted to have as much confidence and power on my bike as that and there was definitely no room for being a wimp.
It took about four months to get my body used to the constant pedaling without dying from cramping up and falling in the street. I felt so slow compared to the people I rode with; I was always mashing like a crazy person to catch up as they casually ‘no handed’ down avenues. I practically died going up every single Yonkers & Bronx hill as well, but that only gave me the motivation to keep pushing myself and become faster. Getting on a bike was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far. It’s like you have control over what obstacles you overcome, what barriers you break down. It’s not in the hands of a teammate or a machine, but in the power of your own mind and body. You tell yourself how far you can go, that’s the beauty of it. I must say competing in the 2 Lap Jam was completely unexpected. I didn’t think I was fast or strong enough to be in such a competitive race with all those hills. It was just me, riding on a 48×15 gear ratio with shaky legs and a beater bike. I didn’t think I had any chance compared to the Cinelli, Fuji and Bianchi owners with stronger legs and more experience.
During the race there was a crash as well as tons of people throwing up and wiping out. I was constantly pushing myself to keep going as much as my legs kept cramping up and my tightening lungs made it harder to breathe. Harlem hill was probably the worst hill I’ve ever been up compared to the Riverdale hill by my area and the all the Yonkers hills put together. It just seemed like an endless incline, but I refused to give up so easily. That whole race was a constant struggle between my mind and my body. My mind wanted to finish so badly whilst my legs wanted to break in half and fall off. It was intense as hell. I give credit to anyone who can even finish one lap; riding around twice at some speeds of 23 mph is just incredible. I also placed first girl in 33 minutes, which was incredible as well. I didn’t think I was first girl; I was just happy the race was over and my legs didn’t feel like they were being stabbed anymore. But I was and still am very grateful for the support that was given to me before, during and after the lap jam. I not only congratulate myself but everyone who participated. We all have a love for cycling that’s so deep and we have to keep proving to everyone out there that it’s indeed a beautiful art. It takes powerful lungs, brolic legs, smarts and a courageous heart to compete in any competition and me winning first girl shows that you can be a newbie and can even have what they call a beater bike like myself, but if you want it bad enough, if you believe in yourself and if you keep pedaling- you can accomplish anything. With competing in the race I won my first Chrome bag, an awesome cycling cap, a jersey and the satisfaction that I placed 30 out of 70-something people who raced that day; mostly men. This shows that any girl can be as fast and strong, even faster than any guy. So the hell with stereotypes! I really want there to be more female cyclists showing their faces at TOD events. Thank you so much TOD for all that you do in inspiring cyclists to keep on pedaling!!!!!