My earliest memory of riding a bike was pedaling my younger brother around on the back of my trike somewhere around the age of 3. I look back at pictures of us and smile. We were having fun. Although I’m older now, 51 to be exact, having fun with the people I love is still the best thing about biking.
Words by Michele Joslyn, Trek Travel Guest
I am married to an avid cyclist. He will bike anywhere, anytime, any season, rain or shine. It’s his passion. I am not that kind of cyclist. I am a recreational rider who prefers mild, sunny days to cold, wet ones. Long, winding trails beat busy roads any day. I ride my Trek Hybrid FX, which I’ve owned for the past 10 years. It has served me well although I am contemplating upgrading to a road bike in the future. I’ve lived in Madison, Wisconsin for the past 18 years. The bike trails are endless and riding can be a leisurely outing or a more challenging adventure, depending on my mood. The best rides always include family, friends, great conversation, and time for stops along the way.
A four day Vermont bike trip back in 1992 was my first official cycling vacation. The brochures promised dairy farms, green pastures, and rolling hills, with a stop at Ben and Jerry’s. I grew up in Louisiana and moved to Chicago after college–both very flat. Vermont has hills. Big hills. Let me say that I truly enjoy hiking. I love a good climb in my boots, my feet firmly on the ground. I’ve hiked mountains out east, out west, and even in Patagonia. However, Vermont taught me that hiking uphill and riding uphill are two very different activities. I didn’t like climbing on a bike. It was hard. Coasting down was a different story, my reward after reaching the top. Biking and hiking have one thing in common though–you are right there in the middle of your surroundings with nothing blocking your view. I loved riding past cows, old barns, farms and green pastures, and the ice cream wasn’t bad either. That was the beginning.
I’ve enjoyed several Trek Travel trips over the years that have motivated me to live a healthier lifestyle and become a stronger rider. The San Juan Islands was the first adventure (kids and grandparents included). I’ve also been to Southern France and Puglia, Italy. All three destinations allowed me to explore beautiful parts of the world, meet amazing new friends, and learn more about myself with each journey.
My San Juan experience taught me that I love active family vacations, particularly ones that I don’t have to organize. Just show up with all family members accounted for and the rest is taken care of. The guides are awesome–patient, encouraging, supportive, fun, and they plan every detail! France helped me realize I didn’t have to be a cycling enthusiast to wear the gear. Those padded shorts actually make riding more comfortable. Somewhere on that trip I heard that clip-in pedals help with hills. That was something for me to consider. Upon returning home I decided I was ready for official bike shorts and clip-in shoes. The first time out I fell and broke my arm, but I didn’t give up. I biked home with my broken arm, one handed as the sun was setting, confirming I’m resilient. And I haven’t broken anything since.
I was excited about Puglia. I had never been to Italy and I did my research. I knew there would be hills but also olive groves, ancient stone walls along quiet country roads, and a coastline like no other. I trained with my clip-ins. Italy would be my first bike trip riding with them. The trip was in April which meant preparing during a Wisconsin winter. I rode outside on my own several times a week. The cold weather combined with disc issues in my lower back made biking uncomfortable. I needed to find a solution because Puglia and the beautiful Adriatic coast were calling. I had a professional bike fitting at Trek (which I highly recommend) and wore appropriate winter gear. Riding became more enjoyable so I trained more. I made it up those hills in Puglia. Not first or second, but at my own pace, and I loved every spectacular sight along the way.
I came home from Italy more excited about being on two wheels than ever before. I now ride regularly with a group of friends in Madison. We explore different trails and quiet roads while solving the world’s problems, encouraging each other, and laughing a lot along the way. For me cycling isn’t about being first to the finish or pushing myself to achieve some extreme goal. It’s about pedaling through life with the people I love, riding fast enough not to tip over, and slow enough to enjoy the journey. It works for me.