When I bought my gravel bike it came equipped with “tubeless” tires. Even though I had ridden plenty of miles by that point, I had no idea what tubeless tires were. (For the non-cyclists reading this post, knowing what tubeless tires are is irrelevant to the rest of the story.) So, when I needed to have my tire changed earlier this week, of course I was unfamiliar with how to do it. I spent a while watching instructional YouTube videos and started to grasp the basic concepts, but because it was my first time and I didn’t have the right equipment, I took my bike to the shop to get the new tire put on properly.
I have always been intimidated by other cyclists and insecure about how little I know about bikes in comparison. The first time I changed a flat tire by myself it took me almost three hours (to be fair, I later learned that my tubes were particularly difficult to remove from my tire). I have spent many hours sitting on the floor rewinding instructional YouTube videos on my laptop in futile attempts to adjust parts of my bike.
When I arrived at the shop and told the bike mechanic I needed help mounting my new tire he rolled his eyes. “Sure. What kind of tape do you want?” he asked patronizingly. When he thought I was out of earshot I heard him say to his colleague, “Ha, she didn’t even know what kind of tape she wanted.”
I meekly watched as he changed the tire; I was eager to learn so that I could do it myself next time, but all I could think about was how shameful and stupid I felt. I thought back to a time in college when I had asked a question in a grad-level math class and some PhD dude in the front row turned around with an “are you serious?” look on his face, making sure I knew he had turned around just to see who could have asked such a stupid question.
I didn’t ask questions in math lectures after that. My grades suffered but I convinced myself it was better to be stupid in secret than risk being so in public.
Looking back on the math class and my experience at the bike shop I am filled with anger and frustration both at myself and at those men. Why hadn’t I been secure enough to be OK with the fact that I didn’t know everything? Why hadn’t I been strong enough to keep showing up and asking questions even when I felt judged by others? Why are there people who need to put others down in order to feel superior? How many people have been dissuaded – myself included – from an interest or passion because others made them feel they weren’t worthy of it?
On the other hand, I find myself filled with gratitude for the many people who have not made me feel that way: the cyclists I have met (you know who you are!) who are patient with me when I ask a question to which I should already know the answer, the TA who never rolled her eyes when I showed up week after week to her Office Hours, the boss who encouraged me to make mistakes and let my voice be heard. If it hadn’t been for those people I probably would have stopped cycling a long time ago or decided not to pursue the math degree with which I graduated.
How can I be a person who never makes another feel inadequate? How can I be open and welcoming and non-judgmental of other “beginners” when I am the “expert”? How can I encourage others rather than tear them down? We all have to start somewhere.
Last night I sat reading on the couch next to Thomas. I came across a passage in my book that described a disease with which I was unfamiliar; I asked him how it operated and what the symptoms were. Apparently these were answers I should have known because, before he answered my questions, he said, “Are you serious?”
Immediately my mind went to, “Why did you ask that, you should have just Googled it and avoided yourself the embarrassment.” I almost responded by saying, “No, nevermind, I misread the passage.” But – in a moment of bravery and resilience sparked by my earlier reflections – I said, “Yes, I’m serious. I don’t know and I asked so that, in the future, I can know.”
One small step for Maddy…one giant step for refusing to perpetuate the cycle of shame!!!!!
P.S. The best part of my bike shop anecdote is that, as I was biking home from the shop with my new tire…it deflated. Turns out Mr. Condescending had not mounted it properly and I had to get it redone by someone else.
Last Thursday morning I went for a bike ride. The best kind of bike ride, in my opinion: one on which I take more pictures than I ride miles.
It was the first day that week the smoke had cleared enough to get outside and I can’t remember ever breathing in the morning air so heavily.
Since then, the smoke has returned, and – maybe related, I’m not sure (so many confounding factors these days!!!!) – I’ve been feeling exhausted and sad.
I’m too tired to write anything of my own but I have spent the past week doing a lot of reading. So, in appreciation for the healing powers of both nature and art, I thought I’d share some of my favorite redwood-related poems and excerpts with you all:
The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
WHEN I AM AMONG THE TREES
by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
by Jane Hirshfield
More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.
Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods
Woods are not like other spaces… They make you feel small.. like a small child lost in a crowd of strange legs. Stand in a desert or prairie and you know you are in a big space. Stand in a woods and you only sense it. They are a vast featureless nowhere. And they are alive.”
The weather this past week has been crazy and scary (commence fire season; I woke up this morning to the smell of smoke) but also incredible. I’ve gone to sleep every night sweating on top of my bed sheets (why have I never purchased a fan?!) and got pummeled by hail at Mt. Tam on Sunday (channeling this guy’s energy from a crazy hailstorm in France), but I’ve also seen some incredible sunrises and sunsets, and spent many late evenings in the park without bringing a blanket and two jackets.
I’ve started to think I should use this blog to post photos since there’s only so many times I can spam followers on Instagram with my – let’s be honest – mediocre iPhone photography. And it’s nice to have photos and memories aggregated somewhere.
Thomas and I – admittedly, stupidly – did not check the weather and drove from San Francisco, where it was an abnormal-but-bearable 89 degrees, to Petaluma. I wanted to do a bike ride around the Sonoma Coast and decided on a 60 mile loop that started in Nicasio and headed toward Tomales Bay, down to Point Reyes, and back up along the Nicasio Reservoir. By the time we had loaded our bikes in the rental car, driven the hour there, and spent a substantial amount of time applying sunscreen, it was just before 11am when we hit the road. Sure, it was hot, but after plenty of chilly and cloudy San Francisco “summer” days we were eager to embrace the heat. We did not, however, appreciate just how hot it would be.
The ride was absolutely beautiful, taking us along Sonoma’s golden rolling hills,
past dairy farms and herds of cows crowded under the shade of a single tree,
and along the stunning coastline on a cloudless day.
But after two hours of riding unshaded roads in the middle of the day we started to crack. We stopped at Hog Island around mile 40, not to eat oysters (because 1) the line is always obscenely long, 2) oysters are extremely expensive for a food that neither of us particularly enjoy, and 3) I’ve never met anyone who craves oysters in the middle of a bike ride), but so I could refill my water. Although I’d already consumed over a liter of electrolytes and had two “salted” energy gels, my pee was bright yellow (if you don’t want to read about my bathroom habits, unsubscribe now).
I still felt surprisingly good, though, and it was only at mile ~55 that I thought I might keel over and die. Miles 55-60 featured me focusing on taking deep breaths and trying not to vomit while pedaling at a snail’s pace to the car.
Overall: 10/10 for the bike loop, 3/10 for my preparation and foresight, and a solid 9/10 for the 7/11-brand Pedialyte which brought me back to life on the drive home.
I’ve recently started “live-documenting” my morning bike rides. Not only do my “best” (relative, of course) ideas come to me when I’m out riding (or walking/hiking/etc.) but I feel most alive and creative in those moments. So I’ve been stopping more often – at stoplights, on the side of the road, at public bathrooms (duh) – to take time to document in photos and words what I’m thinking and feeling, in the hopes that I hold on to more of these ideas and emotions once the ride is over. Walking and hiking are much more conducive to live-documenting than riding so I’ve had to experiment a little with doing so on the bike. I told Thomas the other day that I need to get a handheld recorder so I can talk and ride at the same time:
I’ve tried using voice-to-text on my phone – as I already do to send texts and emails – but the wind always obscures my voice. For example, earlier this morning I tried to say something about “Sausalito” but my phone typed out “Chinese kids”????
Anyway, here are some thoughts and pictures from my Tuesday morning cruise:
This was one of my more color-coordinated rides: I wore a blue hoodie, blue bib shorts, blue gloves, and my blue helmet. Disclaimer: the hoodie and gloves are Thomas’. One of the pros of him never reading what I write is that he’ll never know (I’m trusting my readers here) that I got his favorite hoodie extremely sweaty. Fingers crossed he doesn’t notice it’s missing until I’ve thrown it in the laundry.
My bike was looking pretty good, too. I got a tune-up recently so it’s not making awful screeching and squealing noises and I specifically requested new yellow bar tape to match the grip tape on my squash racket:
In typical Maddy fashion, I rode a random route through the city which led me past Bob’s Donuts, so of course I had to stop in for a quick glazed (#GlazedOrGTFO) for breakfast. There are only so many Clif bars I can eat before I need to diversify with a donut.
Speaking of donuts: everyone knows I love a restaurant with a good pun name. It was only recently that I discovered the “Thai Tanic” (!!!!!!) in downtown Sausalito, which absolutely blew my mind. And this morning, as I took a random route down Polk Street, I came across the brunch spot aptly-named “Friends with Benedicts.” I’m going to need all of my (three? four?) readers to submit their favorite restaurant pun names so I can feature them in my next #MorningRide update.
Until next time!