Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Cyclists

Yesterday I took my bike to work so that I could go riding after work and so that maybe, just maybe it would improve my mood. Even the guys at work tell me that I am a nicer person when I bring my bike in.

This is a Good Thing.

As I rode through station square, southside, hot metal bridge, jail trail, smithfield st bridge, and back to the south side via station square I began to notice something. There were a lot of what I took to be “New Cyclists” on the trails. Now before I go on allow me to define “New Cyclists”. What we are talking about here is usually a new bike and new looking gear (shiny helmet) and an intense look of uncomfortable concentration on their faces. Couple this with a slightly (or not so slightly) wobbly riding style and I think all of you reading this know just what I am talking about. Having introduce several of my friends to cycling I have seen these looks. I know them all to well.

Again, This is a Good Thing.

I can even be pretty sure that these “New Cyclists” are the very reason that many of you would rather take the street instead of the Bike Trail. I know I have done just that especially the station square to 18th section of the South Side Trail. As I passed some of these people on the Jail Trail I began to think to myself how much happier I was with them behind me where I didn’t have to worry about them than in front of me where I had to try and guess what they were going to do next.

This is not a Good Thing.

You see I had forgotten what it was like back in 2006 when I first started riding my bike in order to lose some weight and not die. For weeks I could only do laps in my neighborhood. my first ride was less than a mile and I thought I was going to die on the machine I had bought to save my life. Oh the Irony. But I didn’t die and after a few weeks of riding around my neighborhood I decided to take a longer trip. From East Pittsburgh to the Beehive in the Southside.

This is a Good Thing?

I was prepared. I had a backpack with 5 extra inner tubes a toolkit, energy bars, two bottles of water on my bike, Headlights, tail lights, bike lock, map, satellite photo of bike trail, and a fully charge cell phone. Just in case. The ride down took my two hours (stop laughing) and as I was walking my bike next to the train tracks (oh yeah no complete bike trail for me) I was sure I had just made the biggest mistake of my life. Still I pressed on, riding down the South Side Trail with everyone else on a warm Saturday. Every Time someone passed me I was sure I was going to wreck. Everytime I passed someone (not that often) I felt stupid yelling “ON YOUR LEFT!” as loud as I could, cause you know, that’s what you’re suppose to do.

I eventually made it to the Beehive and had a pot of tea while thinking how amazing it was that I could just hop on my bike and actually go somewhere instead of just riding around my neighborhood. It was the first of several pivotal moments in my cycling life.  That was the day I fell in love with cycling. Even after the ride home, which included several hills I enjoyed riding down on the way out but were less than fun on the way back. I can still remember how it felt to have my eyes opened like that.

It was a Good Thing.

And I want to share that Good thing, I want everyone to feel what I felt that day. I did something I was afraid to do, something I wasn’t sure I could achieve, and in doing it I found out that I can do so much more than the world says a fat guy can do, I can do more than my friends and family thought I could do. Most importantly I learned that I can do more than I ever thought I could do. So when I see a “New Cyclist” I try to give them a little extra room, a lot of extra encouragement, and I hope they see the wonder I see every time I climb into the saddle.

And that is a Very Good Thing.


  1. Fat Guy on an Orange Bike, you are an inspiration. Keep doing it!

  2. Absolutely right on Each one of those Noobs is a New Brother-Sister. Give them a word of encouragement, ask if they need directions, offer a bit of help. We need them out there, we need them to bring their friends.

  3. Love this post. We were all noobs once.