When I walked out of the bike shop with my new 'adult' bike ten years ago, I was pretty sure I would love it, but I knew that I had a lot to learn, and nowhere in particular to look for guidance. So many questions. What are the rules? What gear do I need? How do I shift? How do I change a flat? Where do I GO?!
Turns out, riding a bike is not just like riding a bike. Having someone to show you the ropes is a gift.
Recently we caught up with Erin and Julie, two nurses who met at work and developed a friendship fueled by bikes. At the beginning of our ride, it started to rain (a rarity in September in California). Not a problem for these two!
"We became friends because we worked together." Erin said. "I started my nursing school rotations at UCSF and that's when we first met. I remember getting my job as a PCA, (like a nursing assistant) while I was in nursing school and Julie being like, 'You have to stay. This is your home and now you have to stay. Get a job here. It's the best place to be.' And then, after that she trained me in triathlon and how to ride a bike. I knew how to ride a bike as a kid, but she trained me how to clip in, how to drink your water, how to eat food while you're biking."
According to Julie, "Maybe more of a pushy mom than a mentor. You have to do all the awesome things that I do so I can hang out with you more. The first time she ever clipped in was right on this corner here. We used to live right over there" pointing over her shoulder.
Much like what happened to me (at least twice), Erin stopped, couldn't clip out in time, and fell over.
"I did not point at her while she was on the ground. I just laughed." Julie said.
Since helping Erin off the ground, the two of them have been all over the world together, deepening their bond on and off the bike.
Still in the nursing field, they work in sister units on the same floor, just down the hall from each other. "Julie works mostly nights, and I work mostly days. So we see each other more in passing and we give each other big hugs."
Providing care to children in critical medical conditions takes a toll and cycling offers a much needed respite from the heaviness of their work, which Julie points out is "not just stressful, but very emotional too. So athletics definitely plays a big role in emotional therapy for most of us -- really shoring up your heart and finding ways to express yourself outside of very sad situations."
Erin is quick to find the silver lining in that "our schedules are different from the nine to five. So when we have a random weekday off, like a Wednesday, it's our day to play."
Like many cyclists, Julie's roots are in triathlon, and she too learned from a woman who forged a path before her. "I was started by my girlfriend Megan who did the same thing for me. She was deep into Ironman, doing her Kona year three and she met me and wanted me to come along with her, learn how to ride the bike and run. So she took me to Wildflower for my first triathlon and basically stood on the sidelines and met me everywhere and coached me through the whole thing. So I felt like it was a gift for me to give to pass on. And Megan and I still work out a lot together as well."
Erin and Julie rode down the California coast this past spring - the only two women in the group showed the guys the proverbial ropes. "We were the only two women in this group of guys who didn't really know how to ride. So that was interesting," Erin recalled.
Julie added, "I did a lot of training emails about how to clip in, to pedal, to use chamois butter, how to fuel properly. They didn't know."
Erin noted that, "One of the guys rode in gym shoes and flat pedals, like a Big Sur, hundred mile ride. It was really fun though. It was a great experience. A very challenging, break you down, see how tough you are type of thing. But it was amazing at the end, feeling super proud of ourselves for what we had accomplished."
Over the summer, they headed over to Girona, Spain, "a big place where people go and train. And we were just like, "Let's have fun!'"
"Yes, we are the only ones out there thinking, 'This is so much fun.' Everybody else is training for race season. But the same girl, Megan had taken me on a trip with all of her triathlon friends to Tuscany eight years ago. We stayed in a villa and did all of our own self-guided rides. And another gift that I wanted to give to Erin, traveling with your bike is the best. It is so good to get up every morning and know you are going to be active, you're going to go meet people from another country and have exciting things to talk about and just feel really amazing, excited, filled with endorphins, all day.
I love the cycle-cation also because it's the whole day is devoted to that. There's really nothing else to do but just be on your bike and enjoy the world around you instead of like, "Okay, I got to get there by noon so that I can get it done by two because I have to go to work or I have to go clean the house and meet the in-laws. It's all just focused on the community and the enjoyment of the sport."
So what's next for these two? Julie is off to the mountain bike festival in Bentonville, Arkansas. "All the vendors bring their brand new species of bikes and in the morning everybody waits in line, you run in, you go to your favorite vendor and try to get your bike. Everybody's demoing these really cool, new bikes. And that's Bentonville is actually where the Walmart boys lives. So he had Red Bull come out and machine make all these beautiful trails."
Erin is still getting her feet wet in mountain biking, enjoying getting away from busy roads and learning a new skillset, but always happy to come back to her road bike. "It's been what a year now about, but I feel like I'm cheating on my road bike all the time. It could not be more different. The fear that people have on the road with cars and things, that doesn't scare me quite as much but with mountain biking it's like, 'That tree isn't moving anywhere. I'm moving quite fast. I could go right into that tree.' It's just very different. But it's so much fun. The adrenaline is just through the roof. And then actually when I get back on my road bike, I'm like, 'Oh yeah, this feels great. This is the happy place.'"
From friends to inseparable sisters all because of the bikes...