How I Set My Expectations Too High When New to Recumbent Triking(or How I Fell Off Cloud Nine)
Pure exhilaration. Incredible joy. Instant infatuation. I think it is a pretty safe statement to say we all feel that when we fist get the new recumbent bike or trike. After sitting on my rear for 25 years, I felt like I was given a new lease on life with a recumbent trike. There isn't a gauge that goes high enough to register my excitement.
Even though I still have to wipe the bugs off my teeth each time I ride (the infamous "recumbent grin" we all have when we ride is similar to a windshield catching bugs). I definitely went through a period of putting too much focus on how I THOUGHT I should be riding and stressing like crazy trying to figure out how to "ride like everyone else." Come on, admit it. We all feel like others ride a lot better then we do -- faster, longer, more frequently. I beat myself up mentally worrying how on earth could I keep up. Big mistake. I hope this will help newbies to recumbent cycling realize that however they ride is just fine.
What were my unrealistic expectations? First, it was thinking I had to ride fast because I have one of the fastest trikes made. I chose a Catrike 700 for myself for a myriad of reasons, but my husband insisted I get that model for one main reason: safety. We went to a bike shop and rode every recumbent trike they had. I had no intention of sitting my rear end on a 700. That recline looked crazy to me -- almost lying flat on your back. You would never catch ME on one of those things.
Like most newbies, I thought I would be a lot happier with a more upright sitting position. As I test rode all the trikes, I liked every one I rode - some more than others, but nevertheless I liked them all. But Greg was setting higher standards when he rode them - he wanted me on the safest trike he could find. He was riding like a teenager all over the parking lot trying to get each trike up on two wheels. He could get every trike he rode on two - except the 700. He was not real thrilled about paying that much for a trike, but it was a cheap insurance policy when you think about it. When the salesman made me get on the 700 to ride just a few feet so I could see how it was different from the other models, it was love at first ride.
It was a real thrill to feel the pep of that 700. So the 700 it was. Boy did I get some looks every time people saw me on a 700 -- what was a deaf, blind, pudgy, 40-something lady doing riding on BoyRacer's trike? So you guessed it - I started putting self imposed pressure on myself to be fast. I spent a good year trying to find the magic formula to be fast. I worked hard trying to develop speed. I begged for advice on the Catrike forum - please help me get fast! I rode every day trying to do sprints to develop speed. Although I was respectable, I was by no means "700 material."
Then there was the subject of distance. I will be truthful here and tell you I have never ridden over 25 miles at a time. I will not do it. Why? I told myself that the day I start riding so far that I start wishing I was not riding was the day I would end my love affair with recumbents. I have never felt like I have ridden too much at 25 miles. Something tells me it would start to test me after that number. So I set 25 miles as my max. But I have to tell you, I felt like a huge slacker when talking to other riders who felt like 60 miles was just about the "acceptable" distance.
It was not until about the end of my second year of riding when I woke up and got in line for some sense. What on earth had I been doing to myself? I thought I was smarter than that - I knew on a certain level that I had limitations that would make it all but impossible for me to ride like an alpha triker. The number one factor is I have legally blind vision. It is not smart for a person that is peripherally blind with 20/400 vision to try and ride as fast as those with 20/20 vision. I cannot see approaching cars. I cannot see obstacles in the road to avoid. I have no business cruising at 18+ mph. Reality check time.
Secondly, after 25 years of inactivity, it was impossible to think I could just get on a trike and ride like I did when I was 20 years old. Add a head injury that whacked my internal body thermostat, making it impossible for me to tolerate getting hot or high humidity (this is HOUSTON), and I was playing Russian Roulette pushing myself physically.
So I chilled big time. I don't know when that wake up call finally got my brain to answer, but goodness gracious, the pressure I took off of myself made all the difference in the world to my quality level when riding. I read some where that about 40 minutes of good aerobic exercise is the ultimate to derive the most benefits from exercising. More than that has little extra benefit. Well 40 minutes of riding about 12 mph felt wonderful. I never felt tired, overheated, or guilty for spending too much time riding a day.
The result? A true sense of pleasure and satisfaction every time I ride. No longer do I care if I am "riding like others do." I did not buy a trike to "keep up" with this or that person. Don't get me wrong - I am the biggest cheerleader of a lot of my friends who ride ridiculously long routes at ridiculously fast speeds. Granted, I always have a slight fear for their safety, but I get a huge smile on my face when reading their super human accomplishments. But now I am truly thrilled -- I don't feel any less of a rider than they are. I am doing what is best for ME. Best of all, I feel I truly found my groove to reap the most benefits and pleasure from cycling.
So if you find yourself worrying about how to ride like this or that person, calm down. Ride the way that YOU want to ride and that you feel comfortable with. I no longer care if I am as fast as I "should" be. I am not embarrassed to tell everyone I always sign up for the shortest route at organized bike rides. Afterall you get first whack at the food if you are the first ones back! I love rooting my friends on that do the super long routes. If things were different, I would probably be right there with them on those treks.
In short - do not put unrealistic expectations on your riding ability. If you do want to do the really long rides at really fast speeds, it will come with concerted effort. But riding 50 miles at a time at 18 miles and hour doesn't make you any more of a recumbent enthusiast. Ten mile (or less, or more) jaunts at a speed that you are comfortable with puts you in the "avid cyclist" column as well. Find what feels good to you.
p.s. Take a pack of those Wisp tiny tooth brush deals to get the bugs off your teeth -- they work great!