I bought my wife an Affable Hammers kit when I bought mine. The Affable part, no doubt… The Hammer part? Well, bit of a stretch but I had high hopes that she would want to blossom into one. She had the mechanics, the legs, the lungs and the bike (my wife’s bike is the feminine equivalent, in every way, of mine – it is awesome). The one thing she lacked, well two things, was a proper fitting for the bike and the “want to”.
Proper fitting is easy. Two hours with someone who knows what they’re doing and you’re good. With that out of the way last Friday, it was down to “want to”.
One of the hardest intricacies to grasp when it comes to being fast is confidence. It’s not something you can give another person. You can blow smoke in the direction of their heinie all you want but if the person in question can’t wrap their head around the fact that they “can”… Well, there’s no amount of love, hugs, rainbows and unicorns gonna break through “I can’t”.
Last week at the Dawn Farm 100k, my wife turned in a respectable 17 mph average after her bike fit. Two miles per hour faster than last year and she made me work up front – and even had me seeking shelter in her draft a few times. It was an impressive effort on her part.
Fast forward to 8am yesterday morning. The weather was beautiful but a little windy. 60 degrees and enough sun to turn a vampire to a cinder in an instant – and the temp was supposed to jump up to the upper 70’s in short order. I loaded the bikes, filled up the water bottles, got dressed and we headed out. No arm warmers, no leg warmers, cycling – the way it was meant to be. Finally.
We started out with the group at a spiritedly excellent pace around 22 mph into the wind. My wife and I hung out toward the back and I gave her every tidbit I could to keep her in the best position in the draft. How to open a gap to let the horses in, everything. I also took a second to snap this photo:
She made it fourteen miles with the lead group, fourteen glorious, fast miles into the wind before she was too smoked to continue. I announced our departure, thanked everyone for letting us hang and we slipped off the back – along with Mike (a mechanic at the shop) and my buddy Phill. Now, I thought we were dropping around ten miles when my wife let a gap form. I started to drop back and I hear Phill yell, “Slingshot engaged!” and here comes my wife, teeth clenched, shooting by me… We were back on seconds later. First, two points for Phill for the proper use of “Slingshot engaged”, and four for Mrs. Bgddy for muscling the gap out. It was one of those awesome moments in cycling. Truly inspirational.
The four of us cruised along. Phill and I had a fantastically enjoyable ride and my wife hung in well, even charging past us a few times to take turns up front, to “pay us back” for the hard work. It was such a perfect pace I never bothered to look at the computer to see how fast we were actually going. It got better; we had an awesome tailwind for miles.
We hammered out the last few miles, having to wait for Mike a few times after hills, and pulled into the parking lot at two hours, on the nose. 37.77 miles. Do the math, it’s a tenth or two under a 19 mph average and we were only at 20.2 when we dropped 23 miles earlier.
We loaded the bikes, high-fives all around, changed shoes, stowed our gear, talked with some of the guys after they came in from longer routes and talked about what a great time we had, the perfect weather…
On the way home, with a smile on her face, my wife said, “You know, I figured I did 62 last Sunday, this was only half of that… I should be able to do this (37 miles) easy.”
And there it is: “I can.”
My wife, Mrs. Bgddy, is a legit cyclist. Because she can. I am a happy man.
UPDATE: A very good blog-friend of mine pointed out a possible flaw in this post… Know this: My post is not about what you should do and does not make false assumptions on how you ride. I also hold no prejudices against those who choose to ride at a more reasonable speed than I do (read that sentence again if you must – I just said slower people were more reasonable if you missed it). This post is about Hammers. While I know a veritable ton of guys who can beat up on me pretty good, I am a hammer. My wife is becoming a hammer, much to my delight. In the end, what is most important, when we pull into the driveway (or meeting place parking lot) after we’re done with our ride, is the smile on our face. When I write about “want to”, that covers a whole host of desires and thoughts that are required to push oneself beyond reasonable speed on a bicycle. I use “want to” because one must want to work and hurt, to breathe heavy and sweat to be fast – speed is easy for no one. Until you get used to the pain, breathing heavy, sweat and work… Still, it doesn’t get easier, you just get faster (as Greg LeMond once said so eloquently).
*PS. I know I’m going out on a limb with the whole “legit cyclist” thing. First, you know what I mean. Second, I’m still trying to work out a humble, literary way to differentiate a hammer from a leisure cyclist… We definitely know there is a big difference between going out for a 15 mph cruise and a 20 mph hammer-fest but how does one put that in writing? We also know that most people, and very few women, don’t have a desire to work hard enough on a bike to go that fast. In the end, I’m just proud of my wife for busting through that barrier in her melon. That’s what this post is about. It’s not intended as commentary on how anyone else chooses to ride a bike. If you’re still angry, read my last post: “Don’t Flip Me Off, Bro” and forgive me for not being articulate enough to meet your expectations.