If I was a better cyclist, I’d be on the road right now with the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club. Instead, yesterday, I was privileged to go on a training ride with Claudia Nix, co-owner of Liberty Bicycles in Asheville. Claudia and her husband Mike have been honored many times for the bicycle advocacy work they’re doing in the community. Their bike shop has been voted best bicycle store for years.
So I knew that I was being coached by the very best. I told Claudia that I needed to get back on a bike because I was working on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and that 500 miles of it was on the road. Most people who have finished the MST (and there are only 18) walked the road part. But Sharon, my hiking partner, wants to try riding the Piedmont backroads part of the MST. She’s a much better cyclist than I am and her husband is a very committed road cyclist. So I said I’d work on it – and I’m starting now.
Claudia picked out a Trek fitness bike – that’s what the company calls the model. We started in the parking lot. Up and down, up and down. I needed to get comfortable with the brakes and the gears. We practiced left and right turns – I was OK on left turns but somehow lost my nerve on right turns.
Claudia had the patience of Job. She kept encouraging me and told me how well I was doing. I kept thinking of the New Zealand expression “Bloody Hopeless”. But I persevered.
Then we went on the road through Biltmore Forest across Hendersonville Road from their store. Biltmore Forest is a small, independent town with large upscale houses. In the middle of the day, no one seemed to be in a hurry. I was fine uphill, pedaling and changing gears. Downhill was a challenge – I’m just plainly afraid of falling. We practiced shifting, turns and starting on a hill.
Claudia and I agreed that I was not ready for even the simplest group ride. “How fast and how far do I have to go to be able to go on a group ride?” I asked her. “I need numbers”.
“At least eight miles an hour. You must pedal consistently for at least 20 minutes,”Claudia said. She thought that we were going about three miles an hour, now.
“Three miles? I can walk faster than that on the road,” I told her. It was discouraging. My hand was cramping up.
By the evening, my back and neck were feeling all the jolts and bumps of the practice and ride. But I’m persevering. If doing the MST is all about new experiences, this serious biking is a new experience for me.
I’m going next week, by myself this time, to practice again in Biltmore Forest. If you see me weaving through Biltmore Forest at three miles an hour, wave!