Hailing from the Netherlands, the bike has always played a role in my life. Today, however, it is my life. After commuting by bike for most of my life, I was introduced to the recreational and competitive side of cycling in my mid-twenties. After the introduction was made, there was no stopping it. I fell head over wheels in love with all things cycling. Here’s my story:
I frequently catch myself doing silly things on the bike. I hum or whistle. I make race car noises on fast, windy descents. And when I try to think of a song to which I know all the words, without the music, I draw a blank so I’m stuck with singing the national anthem or the same nursery rhymes over and over.
But more frequently than anything else, I catch myself saying one simple sentence toward the end of my rides. Whether I’m soaking wet and tired from a rainy, 120 km training ride or just returning from a quick jaunt to the grocery store, whenever I’m nearing my home, I think: “God, I love biking!”
That’s it. It’s not profound. It’s not even particularly interesting. But it’s genuine. There is not a single thing in the world that brings me more joy than riding my bike(s).
Like most Dutch people, bicycling has always been part of my life. I learned how to ride a bike early on and started bike commuting as soon as my training wheels got taken off. Trips to school, swimming lessons, friends’ houses and the supermarket were all done by bike. It was all part of everyday life and I never gave it any thought. A bike was how you got around. That’s all.
But my family moved around a lot and I grew up in three different countries. With my teenage years spent in America, I got a car at the age of 16 and our bicycles collected dust in the garage.
I didn’t start biking again until a friend introduced me to a road bike. I had never considered bicycling as a recreation or sport before, and this bicycle – -so light, so thin, so fast — looked nothing like ones I’d ridden previously. I was intrigued by it. Drawn to it, even. So I bought the cheapest road bike money can buy and started “cycling”. I got pretty active that summer and even invested in some clipless pedals and lycra, which I promptly hid below some running shorts.
I never rode with anyone and never went looking for anyone to ride with either. I just loved feeling free and boundless when I’d roam the empty country roads of Idaho.
After moving around a bit from America back to Europe back to America, I landed in Seattle, Washington, where one of the first things I did was ride the Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic – a 330 km ride that takes 10,000 participants from Seattle, Washington, to Portland, Oregon, in one or two days. It was the first organized bike ride I had ever signed up for, so why not start with 330 kilometres?
While training for and riding the event, I was told that I rode fast and competitively and that I should probably join a bike racing team. I scoffed.
My bike was my transportation and I had only recently discovered the joy of recreational riding, so to me, in a way, suggesting I should race my bike sounded very much like someone saying: “Hey, like driving your car? You should look into racing nascar.”
It seemed absurd, yet I was curious. I became acquainted with some women bike racers and soon joined a team. What I found wasn’t just a new sport. What I found was a community. For the first time in my adult life — in the saddle, surrounded by people who too know the joys of bicycling — I found a home.
In just a few years time, cycling has completely taken over my life. It’s my transportation. It’s my profession. It’s my hobby. It’s my way of life.