The camaraderie of the hard road is as much in sharing that insight as in the laughs you have, riding in good company. The bike is the perfect vehicle to take you down those secret corridors of illumination. The pleasure comes when you grasp just what has happened inside your head and spirit. It doesn’t stop when the bike stops, when you reach the top of the col or peel off at the end of the ride, so tired you can hardly think or stand straight. That’s where the pleasure begins. The self-knowledge.” – Graeme Fife, Glory Through Suffering
I woke up entirely too early this morning, before the day had broken, to the sounds of whirring wheels, and laughs bubbling up through the curtains and in all the corners of the house. Clicks, and clacks, the sounds of shifters over the tarmac, the rattle of carbon as it rolls over chip seal. It took me a moment to stir myself out of the noise, and to notice that the dog’s pink little belly was still rising and falling in slumber, the wind barely disturbing the branches of the evergreen tree just outside the window. “It was all a dream.” I thought.” The most emotional, engaging, and powerful dream.”
Rising from bed, the remnants of travel were still slung across the dressing room; suitcases broken open to show off cycling souvenirs of a weekend in Texas, my journals and notes unfolded carefully on the armchair, and a pile of jerseys + bibs that smelled of Hill Country dust (and maybe that biker bar along the route) had accumulated in the mesh basket bound for the utility room.
I tottered downstairs to drink a glass of water, and make coffee. My legs weren’t sore, though they proudly carried the first straight tan lines of the season. Lines that only a woman who cycles could love. My shoulders were relaxed, despite 140 miles in the saddle in just a few spring days. But my belly hurt. From laughing, often uncontrollably, with a group of women I’ve just only met, but feel that I’ve known for a lifetime. The bike does that to us. I smiled. Was it time to go back?
It’s tough for me to describe this knowing. There’s just something about the authenticity of it all. Knowing that when we’re on the bike, it’s ok to experience whatever suffering we have deep inside. That we’ll share it with the group, and run over it with our wheels. I’ve met some of the most amazing women in my life on bicycles. And I have so many “best days” with them that I don’t remember the first; instead, I just keep looking forward to the next.
Though the laundry is almost clean, the love notes to new friends almost sent and the notes about the year to come nearly compiled, the weekend spent in Texas with these 18 amazing, bright, inspiring and avid women won’t be soon removed from memory. Not when the tan line fades or deepens, not when the laundry is clean. We won’t run out of photos to share, jokes to elaborate on, or ideas for how to recreate it all again and again. The experience of riding with them; of growing stronger, braver, closer and more confident in their presence is not a dream, but a duty happily embraced.
Over the next year, these women – my fellow Rapha Women’s Ambassadors + I – will host rides and events and encourage opportunities to inspire women all over the country with the power of our bicycles, and the strength of our camaraderie. It may sound like a challenging number of tasks, but the truth is that so much of what we’ll organize comes naturally. The love of the bike is a part of us, of what we do, of who we are. This charge is unlike anything on the planet for women and bicycles; because we’re not just tasked with getting women to ride their bikes or to wear Rapha’s amazing clothing (though this is a great start;) we’re tasked with encouraging them to dig a bit deeper, to suffer a bit more and to enjoy the joy, the struggle, and the success – both inside and out – that riding brings.
We can’t wait to see you on the road. xoxo