I feel a bit like an interloper here. I don’t think of myself as particularly fit – though I am not really sure how to judge that. And then there is the fact that I am more than a decade past 50. But I am a feminist and I do read this blog and when I saw Samantha’s question How Does It Make You Feel? I really wanted to answer it, partly as a way of saying “thank you” to her.
I started cycling about a year and a half ago. My first bike (see How Many Bikes is Too Many? ) was a mountain bike. I didn’t intend to use it for mountain biking exactly but a mountain bike seemed like it would be comfortable because of the suspension and those big tires made me feel safe. I’m an old lady after all. What I didn’t know is that I would want to go fast – faster than I seemed to be able to get the mountain bike to go –it’s just too heavy. It took a lot to get it moving and even when I thought I was flying along everyone was passing me!
The solution? A road bike. But getting a road bike meant that I would have to ride all hunched over with my feet attached to the pedals! Terrifying – and some little voice was saying to me that it was not something for sixty-one year old woman to do. I was faced with a dilemma – if this was something that couldn’t be done at sixty-one it was something that I would never do – and I really wanted to do it.
It was not the easiest of transitions. I fell more than once. There is nothing quite like feeling yourself falling over while your feet are immobilized. It happens in slow motion, like a felled tree going down, and all you can do is watch and anticipate the pain. I have a piece of road in one elbow as a permanent reminder of the learning process. But I haven’t fallen (not like that at any rate) in a while now and it is such a high to have learned something new and to get better each time I ride.
One of the big benefits of starting a new physical activity when older is that I have no point of comparison with a younger me – no regrets for lost strength, speed, or skill. Right now I can only get better – and I do! I started out struggling with 10 mile rides and I now routinely do 20-25 several times a week. I never used to ride where there were hills. I was afraid I would slow down too much and just fall over – does that even happen? This morning I did my best time so far up Torrey Pines (400 foot climb) – 14 minutes at 6.2 mph compared with my first climb 17 minutes at 5 mph. Okay, that’s not really very fast and I still get passed but I feel powerful going up and I feel like I am flying when I’m going down those same 400 feet. And, let’s not forget, I am 62 years old after all.
So this blog post has several messages. First, get a (at least one) bicycle. Second, don’t think you are too old to start something like this (I also started running at 50 – and there were similar pleasures in that experience). Third, if you are (almost) 50 there are good times ahead. Finally, a big thank you to Samantha – her Facebook status updates on cycling may have been the final nudge that I needed to get me out on a bike.
Biography: Sharon Crasnow teaches philosophy at Norco, College in Riverside County California and lives in San Diego. Fortunately these are both excellent places for cycling. Her philosophy research interests are methodology in the social science with an emphasis on feminist methodology, and feminist epistemology and philosophy of science. She is the co-editor with Anita Superson of Out from the Shadows: Analytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy and with Joanne Waugh of Philosophy Feminism and Popular Culture. She has two daughters, a stepdaughter, and stepson and is married to a pretty incredible political scientist who also is an avid cyclist.