by Kymberly Byers - March 2017
As the summer of 2015 got into full swing, I had been riding my Trek hybrid bicycle fairly religiously since the beginning of April. I was very happy moseying along taking pictures of lakes, sunrises and sunsets. I had done a couple of bike trails up in Michigan, I had even biked along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers while on vacation. Many of the people that I talked with in my travels had asked if I had ridden this or that event, I pretty much look at them with a blank stare because I had no idea what they were talking about.
My doctors, my coworkers and even a cousin in Nebraska suggested that I try ridding with a group. I wasn’t very keen on the idea, because my idea of a group ride was lycra clad men racing in tight formation like it was the Tour de France or something. I didn’t think that there was room for a woman, let alone a beginner like me. I did look at the 3RVS website a few times, I even loaded the bicycle up on the back of the car and drove towards the park once, but chickened out at the last minute and went home.
Finally, on the sixteenth of August, I went to Kreager park, I was a few minutes early, but I was also tired of chickening out. I had checked the website and I knew that the group leader’s name was Deb Watts. I was so nervous that I almost left. As Deb pulled into the parking lot and started to unload her bicycle, I introduced myself and asked if I could ride with her group. She was very welcoming, of course she said yes. Within minutes the parking lot filled with cars carrying some pretty awesome bikes, I felt very out of place with my hybrid. I was having serious doubts about this ride, but it was too late. In for penny in for a pound, as the old saying goes.
I met Amy Copeland, Jennifer Altherr, and so many other people that I could never have learned all of their names. Deb did a little ride briefing, introduced me to the group. Everyone was very welcoming, and off we went. Quite a few people rode beside me giving me tips and pointers on how to ride in a group. Hand signals, drafting, stopping, car back, I was so overwhelmed. I just pedaled and tried to keep up. A couple of times the group started to leave me behind, but so many people dropped back and gave me encouraging words, blocked the wind in front of me, helped me set my pace, basically they got me to the gas station where we stopped for a break. I had never ridden so far at one time, and we still had to go back the park.
We regrouped, we rode and we rode. I listened to people talking, answered a few questions, pedaled and pedaled, and as we got close to the park I started to faultier. I was out of energy. But the girls didn’t leave me, they helped me get back to the park. I was amazed, I had ridden 26 miles with only one break. In the past, this would have taken me twice as long as it did in this group. Plus, the comradery that was displayed was infectious. I wanted to try again.
The following week, I showed up at the park for the ride, and once again, the smiles and laughter were genuine and inviting. Amy said hello right away, and I started asking questions about everyone’s bicycles so that I would have a clue when I went back to the bike store to look for a bike that fit better and that was more appropriate for the riding that I was doing. The questions I asked may have been newbie questions, but everyone took the time to explain the differences in their bikes. During the ride, Rick Pegg and I had an interesting conversation about clipless pedals. By the end of the ride, I was struggling again, but once again the group came to my rescue with drafting help, more encouraging words, and they never left me, even though I am sure that I was slowing them down. I was hooked. I knew that I had found a group that I wanted to be a part of.