My first real bike was a silver 10-speed with red handles and rainbow stripes that I purchased with allowance money when I was 10. There was no helicopter parenting back then, so I spent summers riding by myself all day long through my hometown of Willingboro and all the nearby towns in Burlington County. Cell phones were nonexistent; I had no knowledge of bike repairs, and no helmet, of course! But in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, that’s just how we rolled.
I moved to Washington, DC to attend college and graduate school. In my early 20s, I dabbled in mountain biking while living in Northern Virginia. Then I ended up spending a decade living abroad in some amazing but not so bike friendly locations, such as Buenos Aires, Miami (kind of like living abroad, really), Mexico City, Madrid, and Moscow. In 2005, I moved back to New Jersey. A few years later, I went back to school again at almost 40. That adventure took another 5 ½ years to complete while working and caring for a sick parent. Soon after that, I found out I needed emergency surgery. The doctors said that I would probably never be able to lift more than 10 pounds and would always have physical limitations.
If there’s one thing that guarantees that I will do something, it’s telling me that I can’t, no way, it’s impossible. As soon as I could, I started walking. Pretty soon I was walking 8 miles, and decided I needed to add something more intensive to my repertoire that still didn’t involve lifting. I bought a beach cruiser without gears. I started riding. One mile, two miles…before long, I was up to 20 miles. I upgraded to a 7-speed beach cruiser with a wicker basket, which I named Betsy. Betsy and I ended up going 20, 30, up to 50 miles together. I was beginning to realize that I was hooked, but as much as I loved Betsy, I needed a slightly more efficient bike. I went to D&Q, and there I found my current bike (which my friends named Giselle because it really is a glamorous bike by my standards.) While there, I asked them if there were any organizations that would be tolerant of a newbie rider, and they told me to contact Team Evesham.
I went on my first Team Evesham ride in November 2015. I thought I would be able to hang in pretty well given all the miles I’d covered the previous summer. What I discovered is that there is nothing like group riding to hold you accountable! I had trouble keeping up. But no rider is left behind, and the group made sure that I finished safely. By that time, I had received full clearance for limitless physical activity thanks to my efforts (did someone mention impossible?), so I did some strength training, and now I can hold my own as a C/C+ rider, with ambitions to maybe be a B rider someday.
In my real life, I have been an educator for more than 20 years. Despite the obstacles that are not news to anyone, it truly is the best job in the world. I think the reason for that is that in order to stay fresh and vital, you need to be a lifelong learner yourself.
My Team Evesham experience carries over into this area of my life. I have learned how to do technical things like work my gears, and, as of last week, how to change a flat. I’ve learned the etiquette and techniques necessary for riding with others. I’ve learned how to push myself in a different way. Clearing my head on the bike on a regular basis makes me better in all aspects of life. Finally but most importantly, I have met amazing people from all walks of life. Recently, a 2016 team jersey was issued. I will be wearing one this spring, because after riding through the winter with this group, there’s no question I belong.