Salt, Blood and Tears: A Column by Alexis David

I am so psyched to introduce this new part of our site: a beginner column from Alexis David, an awesome lady and a kickass writer! Stay tuned as she learns the ins and outs of racing.

Alexis's team—great to see women enjoying riding together!

Alexis’s team—great to see women enjoying riding together!

by Alexis David

I was you. Ten years ago. Five years ago. A year ago. You.

You. You. You.

Me.

I started racing this summer. Racing. I’d never done it. At all. In anything. I’ve done about two 5ks in my life. I am not an endurance athlete. I understand field sports, not cycling. I used to think running a mile or two was pretty impressive.

You see, I started biking with my Tuesday night bike shop group rides last summer and now last January, I went into that same bike shop, found the guy who was rumored to be starting a new women’s cycling team and said, “I want to be on it. I want to race.” He looked at me. He paused. Then, he nodded. He said, “Okay. ”

Let me explain further. Last summer, my bike was a 1982 Ross. I wore the same sneakers I wear to cut the grass. I stopped for ice cream on the “C” ride. For god’s sake, I wore a hydration pack while cycling. I stood out.

I am the newest of the new. I am a sapling in a field of oaks. I am a newbie cyclist. Last year, I learned how to clip in. Last year, I didn’t know if I could bike twenty miles, so I practiced with my friend beforehand. Last year, I bought a bike that cost more than one hundred dollars. The farthest I have been on a bike is forty-four miles. The fastest I have ever gone is thirty-five miles an hour and that was downhill. The best I have ever finished is second to last.

You see, I am the woman who gets dropped. I am the woman who doesn’t know all the parts of her bike. I am the woman who didn’t know until three months ago that you weren’t supposed to wear underwear with your bike shorts. I am seriously a novice.

And, there is beauty in that. There is a kind of loveliness when I make a mistake. I am learning. It is like when you teach a kid how to swim and she’s so scared and resistant and mad that she’s in the water, but then half an hour later she won’t get out of the pool. I am that floundering fish of a kid.

I am on a team of all women in Buffalo, NY: Nickel City Cycles. I hope it’s my team for life. I am the youngest member. I love it. I adore it. I want to ask it on a date and bring it champagne in the morning.

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My body has excreted salt, blood and tears because of biking, and I still do it. I have gotten home from my first race and cried on the carpet in my living room. I literally crumpled to the floor after getting dead fucking last (lapped and at least twenty minutes behind the last person) and thought, “Why am I doing this?” However, I drank a lot of water. I ate a lot of peanut butter and the next day I put on my cycling shoes again. I was out there. Biking always draws you back. It’s seductive. Just went you think it’s over, it asks you to dinner and compliments your dress.

So, in short, I am not good at this. I need some more years to really even be adequate, but biking has literally changed my life.

It has given me strength, humility, courage, and muscle in body and mind. I think of my body not as a pretty, delicate thing meant only for frilly dresses; I think of it as a machine. I think of it as a mass in motion. When I am on my bike, I am muscle memory. I am push and pull. I am an engine for an aluminum frame. I am movement. I am poetry.

Biking has taken me out of an office and put me on a road, in a field, on a track, in a park, on a farm. Biking has given me friends who I joke with on the way home from the race. Friends who tell me how to eat bananas and peanut butter and drink more water than I think I should. Friends who tell me to push myself a little harder when I’m on that hill. Friends who cheer my name when they see me on the course. Friends who whisper to me, “Just keep smiling and enjoy the ride” five seconds before the starting call.

Biking has made my heart swell with pure love for these people in my cycling community, for these people on my team, for my friends. Biking is a high five before and a high five after. Biking is a hopeful talk. It’s a quiet chat. Biking is a “Keep your head up” comment. It’s a smile across the bike shop’s garage. Biking is a “Push. Push. Push.” Biking is a clink of a beer for a job well done. Biking is women. Biking is men. Biking is unity, equality, freedom, self-sufficiency, and interconnectedness.

I may be new. I may be pretty terrible (right now). I may not be first, not even fourth, but twelve out of thirteen, if I’m lucky. I may be tired and spent and worn out at the criterium, at the circuit, on the road, but biking, biking, biking is for me.

So maybe I am you ten years ago.

Or, maybe you are not quite me. Maybe I am you in a few months, in a week, in a day. Maybe I am you tomorrow. Maybe you are just about to be in motion too. Maybe you’re just about to soar. Just about to feel your own salt, blood and tears falling from your body, crashing down on the floor as you smile because your legs are tired and sore, but your heart is racing. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe there is so much more.

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