So I was supposed to go on my first group bike ride with the Bicycle Planet cycle group last weekend. The night before, I anxiously prepared like a high school freshman getting ready for her first day of school. Backpack or no backpack? Fanny pack? Heavens, no! That screams, “Tourist!.” How many water bottles? Where will I put them anyway? I only have a cage for one water bottle. Sunglasses? Where’s the holder-thing that attaches the sunglasses around my neck so they won’t fall to the ground? So many things to consider.
After figuring this all out, I got up at the insane hour of 6:30 a.m.. For someone like me who still sleeps until 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I may as well have gotten up at 4:00 a.m. At 7:15 a.m., I rode my bike to the Bicycle Planet store and waited. Slowly, I watched as the other riders convened, one by one. I observed how they methodically removed their bikes from the trunks of their cars, put a towel on the ground and reconnected their bike tires. I watched them carefully pump air into their deflated tires. I heard the clacketty-clack noise of their cycling shoes as they made their way to the meeting spot. Awed at how professional this group looked, I was starting to rethink my decision to partake in this group ride. After all, I had only been on my bike once…. that morning, as I rode around the block, exactly one time before heading over to the store.
Finally, an official-looking cyclist opened up the bike store and said that anyone could come in if they needed anything. I walked in and waited as he dealt with two customers at the desk. He gave them bikes and fitted them for helmets. When he finished with the couple, I asked the man behind the desk if it will be a problem during this morning’s ride that I am a beginner road rider. I explained that this morning’s one mile ride from my house to the store was my first time on the bike. He said that usually, beginner riders do not have a problem because there is generally a slower group. However, this morning, a significant number of experienced riders will be on the ride. He suggested that I ride instead with the two people who just picked up their bikes. He said that they, too, were beginner cyclists and were going on a less challenging, local ride.
I was devastated, crushed. I was so psyched for my first group ride. I spoke to Morry Edelstein, the owner of Bicycle Planet, who confirmed that usually, there are a number of beginner riders. He said that when the weather gets warmer, more beginners will show up and I should come back to ride with the group. Enter Shveta and her husband, Raul. Avid spinners, this was their first time on road bikes as well. They welcomed me and together, we rode the paved bike path to Bethpage State Park. Along the way, we wound up getting lost trying to find where the path connects and Raul gave me a quick reminder lesson as to how to properly shift the gears.
As we rode up and down the rolling path, Shveta and I kept assuring each other that we really are in good shape, despite our howling about our searing quads.
As we rode, Shveta and I talked about my husband, who loves to bike and how his back issue prevented him from participating in this ride. I said that my husband would get along well with Raul who kept pace about 50 feet ahead of us. At the end of an hour and a half, Raul estimated that we rode about 15-20 miles.
Shveta and I exchanged telephone numbers, expecting to contact each other when we are ready to join the “regular” Sunday morning cycling group. We enjoyed the beautiful weather, got a rigorous workout, became familiar with our bikes and made new friends. Despite my immediate disappointment that I was not part of the Bicycle Planet cycling group, this smaller group proved to be an enjoyable venture. Sometimes things don’t always turn out as we planned….sometimes they are even better.