“Pretty fast for a big girl”: Notes from the road, #2

Cycling Shirt - Bicycling over hills: Love / Hate RelationshipOh, hills. Cyclists love/hate you so. See my post, Wind or hills? Pick your poison, and Kim’s post How to ride your road bike up really, really steep hills with minimal weeping.

And this recent bike tour in Arizona had some serious hills. Tucson, like Canberra, Australia, another city I’ve ridden around lots, is deceptive. Local commuting cyclists in both places describe these cities as flat. And yes, that’s true. They’re high country plateau cities.

They’re also, in both cases, surrounded by hills. Big hills. Leave Tucson, leave Canberra and it’s just a question of which hills. Here’s a list of significant Arizona climbs. Note how many are close to Tuscon. And here is a list of Canberra climbs. There’s even an event Fitz’s challenge that combines most of them.

But back to Arizona: On this ride the biggest hills also corresponded with the most beautiful scenery. It’s often that way. I remembered how beautiful the Coranado forest ride was from the last time I did this bike tour. I had completely forgotten the hills.

Another woman on the tour laughed when I told her that. She said she too “forgot hills” as soon as they were successfully ridden up. I loved the point that she made next. “Cycling is like childbirth. You don’t remember the tough bits until you do it again.” Right! These hills, that pain. What am I thinking doing this again? Exactly.

On these hills, I was trying to “be good.” What does that mean for me? Avoiding the bad habit, for me, of racing up the bottom half, or third, of a serious climb only to be reduced to a crawl thereafter. I love going fast but my size is an issue on hills. See Fat, fit, and why I want to be leaner anyway. Tl;dr: hills. Climbing is all about power to weight ratio.

So this time I used my heart rate monitor and deliberately took it easy. La la la, up the hills.

I got carried away just once. Our tour leader likes climbs. I saw him come from behind on a descent and start up on the hill ahead. I raced after him and caught him on the downhill. I’m fast downhill. See Strava, QOM, and does downhill count?

I knew it was unlikely I’d be able to stay with him but I decided to abandon my “moderate, heart rate” sensible strategy and try. That meant getting out of the saddle and pushing hard.

At the top he turned to look behind and seemed happy and surprised to see me there. High five! There was no one else anywhere near us.

We rode slowly, drank water, caught our breath and waited for the others. “You’re pretty fast for a big girl, ” he said.

Yup. I am.

I don’t mind the “big girl” comment. It’s true. They’re aren’t many women my size on road bikes. Like many larger women, I’m actually not that sensitive about my size. It’s not a mystery or a surprise to me. Indeed other people pussyfooting about the issue is what let’s me know that they think it’s a bad thing or something about which I ought to be ashamed. I’m chagrined by my size. Occasionally annoyed by it. I wish I weighed less, etc etc. But it’s not a secret or a shock.

I’ve written about that too, Big women on bikes. I was happy when I uploaded my Garmin data to Strava that they rated two of the climbs as Cat 4. That means as hills, they rated. None of the hills near here, in flat farmland country, get a rating.

Even though they’re work, they’re certainly beautiful, those Arizona hills.



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