I’ve learned that when it comes to physical challenges, my own self-doubt is often the greatest source of motivation. Let me explain.
For the last few months or so, I’ve been obsessed with the whole cycle chic subculture. If you’re not familiar with the concept, the Cycle Chic Manifesto is an excellent primer.
I have this vision of these lissome, willowy women wearing flowy dresses, high heels, and elegantly made-up faces astride sturdy, dutch bikes pedalling through the city. I so wanted to be one of those women, but I’m a large, ungainly girl who, despite the makeup, is mostly frumpy and inelegant. I’m not some waifish mystic pixie on a Batavus: I’m a slow fat girl on an inexpensive Trek bike. I am not the stuff my cycling dreams are made of, and I thought I never would be.
I studied cycle chic photographs and websites with a fervor that bordered on obsession. Many nights passed in a daze as I flipped from blog to blog, soaking up the culture, living life vicariously through this cycling sisterhood. Yet no matter how much I learned, no matter how many of these women said they just decided to start riding, I didn’t think that I could ever be one of those women.
Tuesday dawned sunny and bright with scarcely a cloud in the sky. I knew it would be a perfect day for cycling, but the idea of putting on my daily librarian-cum-bike commuter uniform of cardigan, nice-ish jeans, and Mary Janes had no appeal. Instead I reached for a form-fitting flirty purple dress and bright orange high heels. I applied my makeup with a light but expert hand. I donned a bright orange jacket, my trusty daisy-covered helmet, and wheeled my bike up the basement stairs out onto the street.
The wind caught the hem of my dress as I sped downhill, but I didn’t care. The breeze felt like a chilly kiss on my bare knees, and the sensation made me sit a little straighter on my bike seat. My head was high, my chin pointed defiantly forward as I pushed up and coasted down hills on my way into the office.
A few strangers smiled at me as I passed, and I smiled in return. Maybe it was the incongruous sight of a rather large black woman who dared to wear a purple dress while she rode a bike around town that made them give me a second look, but whatever the reason I found that I didn’t really care why they were looking at me. I felt great, I felt alive, and most importantly, I felt beautiful.