While everyone is trying to master at-home workouts, and probably annoying their downstairs neighbors in the process, I’ve bean pulling up my bike shorts, buckling my helmet, and getting some fresh air on my road bike. Admittedly, my wheels hadn’t seen much road time in the past few years largely due to a busy work and travel schedule. Carving out three hours for a long ride seemed like an impossibility back then, and now I’m scheduling my weeks around long rides and good weather. Early on in the process, I set a goal to hit 500 miles before lock down was lifted. I didn’t tell anyone to begin with because, frankly, I wasn’t sure if I would have the energy or drive to meet this milestone. But, as the weeks have gone by, cycling has become more and more important in my weekly routine, and now I’m proud to say that I’ve surpassed my goal by more than double, and am averaging 150 miles a week! Spending more time on my bike has been one of the silver linings of the COVID-19 lock down. Getting out in nature and putting my phone down, has proven to be a much needed ritual amidst all of the chaos and uncertainty.
Some other realizations have come with my time on (and off) the road; some associated with cycling and others a bit more broad. I’m sharing the of the key takeaways from my 1000+ miles of riding down below.
There are very few resources for women in cycling.
Hours have been spent scouring Reddit feeds, cycling forums, and YouTube trying to find decent resources for women in cycling — they are sadly few and far between. Especially with a piqued interest in clubs and racing, I have had to turn to my male counterparts for information. While they have been open to providing answers and resources they have found helpful, they have also acknowledged a massive needs gap for female-focused content. I have found a few female bicyclists on Instagram that I have enjoyed following, like @ayesuppose, @coz_fox, @clippedinandfree, and @kateplusfate. I think the Global Cycling Network & Liv do a good job to educate riders.
There’s not enough info on female performance (paces and watts to work toward if you’re an ambitious novice), how women’s bodies need different different things (handle bar height, saddles that are comfy for your lady parts, etc), or even just information on racing as a woman. The only real way to get answers currently is to connect with other women who already ride, and if you don’t have a built in network, that’s really hard.
Fueling up on-the-go is crucial.
Never did I ever think eating while doing my sport was going to be a “thing”, but when I started adding on the miles and doing research on how to have successful longer rides, I discovered that snacking on any rides longer than 90 minutes is encouraged. Eating and working out simultaneously, sign me up!! I’ve heard of all the snack recommendations from pocket bacon to the gels, and here are a few that I’ve fallen in love with.
- That’s It Fruit Bars, specifically the cherry + apple and mango + apple flavors. For long rides, I’ll usually eat my first bar after 90 mins, and then half a bar every 45 mins. These are super moist and easy to open and eat without stopping.
- Rx Bars! The chocolate sea salt flavor is totally my jam, but these boys are thick and chewy, meaning they’re a better snack when you have a chance to pull over. However, if you want to stay on the move, little nibbles work, too.
- A new-to-me brand, Honey Stinger, has also been a go-to. I haven’t tried their energy chews yet, although I want to, but their waffles are tasty, and it’s easy to shove a bunch in your jersey pocket. Fave flavors are vanilla and lemon, but their original honey flavor can get up in there, too.
- Don’t forget about beverages! I’ve been alternating between Liquid IV and Nuun on my rides. For super long rides, I typically pack Nuun tablets because I think they travel easier. I’ve been wanting to to try the Nuun podium series, specifically their Endurance and Recovery products. My first two water bottles on rides are all generally packing some form of Liquid IV. Their hydration multiplier I find to be a lot more effective, but I’m not as in love with the flavor – it’s very sweet. I usually end up splitting one packet between two water bottles, and adding some juice to cut through the flavor.
It’s not impossible to make new friends, or reconnect with old ones, during a global pandemic.
Thanks to Strava, I have found several people to ride with between my time in Boston and Maine. For the most part, I would say, it’s not impossible to socially distance while riding, and it’s been so helpful to have someone to ride with, even if it is just once a week. While riding by myself, I would go on the same routes day in and day out, getting led to the Blue Hills, out to Sudbury, and around the seacoast has been one of the perks of not going it alone every ride. It’s also just nice to meet new people not at a bar or on a dating app…
Talking about cycling on Instagram also let me know some of my friends who rode, who I didn’t even know did! I’ve been able to catch up on long rides with friends during this whole debacle of a year, and it’s been such a great way to catch up.
I love a good reward system!
Speaking of Strava, this app has been my primary motivator for getting out on the road. I’d love to think that I’m naturally motivated to workout, but let’s be real, I’m competitive AF, and Strava taps into that – not only because I can compete against myself, but other people, too. And without it, I’m not sure if I would have ridden as much as I did. I hesitate to give an app that much credit, but every time I received kudos from a friend, or hell, even a perfect stranger, or got a QOM, I was more motivated to clip in the next day.
Perks of the app: I can compare entire rides, segments, and my average speed/watt output. Seeing myself improve over the last three months has been so gratifying, and I love that I can track my progress over that long of a period of time. If you pay for the premium version of the app (which there was a lot of controversy about over the last couple months, but I ultimately think it is worth it), you can also see other riders who’ve ridden the same segments. If you want to follow me on Strava, click here and we can be buds!
Cycling is a sport that has a massive barrier to entry, preventing diversity and discouraging new riders.
The cost of a bike, all the gear required, and just general info needed to be successful on the road can be a little overwhelming to curious potential new riders, especially women and minorities. Ayesha McGowan, the first professional African-American in women’s pro cycling, was interviewed for a revealing Telegraph article that I think is worth reading. It talks about the the institutional failure of the sport to encourage diversity and approach-ability. As a marketing professional, it is glaring how there isn’t enough content shared by the cycling powerhouses of the world that makes this sport welcoming. USA Cycling as an organization has failed to support Black athletes. And brands generally aren’t featuring a diverse athletic pool.
As I fall in love with the sport more and more, my goal is to put some content out there that answers questions that I had as a beginner, and encourages people from all sorts of backgrounds to get on two wheels. If there are any questions you want me to answer, in particular, let me know if the comments below.