It’s no secret that I’ve just embarked on my cycling journey and the main ride for this journey has been a 13-year-old Cannondale that I like to call Ruby. When I bought Ruby all those years ago, she came with Shimano Ultegra components. At one point, those shifters worked like a dream. Although now it has been so long ago that I can’t remember how that felt, or when it stopped feeling that way. What I know now is that it takes a ridiculous amount of muscle tension and effort to shift one gear on either the big ring or the rear cassette. Post ride, I was frequently left with achy fingers for a souvenir. However, at some point my fingers must have adapted and gotten stronger because I continued to ride and muscle through the gears, but the finger pain subsided. Eventually, I came to accept that this is the way shifting was – effortful.
Then one day as I was out for a group ride through a clinic called “Ride with a Legend”, Alison Dunlap settled in beside me. As we chatted and pedaled along over the rolling terrain in Golden, Colorado, I became aware of how effortless shifting was for her. She extended her open hand down toward the shifters and sort of wiggled her fingers in mid air, as if she was tapping her fingers absent-mindedly on a counter top while thoroughly pondering whether or not she did, in fact, wish to change gears. Then, with one finger ~ quite possibly a ring finger~ she quickly and lightly tapped the shifter. With one soft but distinct click, the process of changing gears was complete! In that moment, I was certain of two things: she very likely had never experienced achy fingers from shifting during a ride and that I, too, would one day shift gears effortlessly!
When it came time for me to research bikes and all of their options, I heard from many of my teammates who were vocal about not buying this or that component group because “they’re used to what they have”. I decided to be open to whatever components came with the model of bike that I wanted. I figured I’m a human, I can adapt….it’s what we do. My only requirement was that I would be able to shift effortlessly.
The new Cannondale I got earlier this winter (see my blog post “the gift of a new bike”) has the SRAM RED component group. It’s completely different from my old shifters. The other day my husband stopped to admire my bike as it was leaned against the wall in our entryway. “How do the shifters work?” he asked. I replied, “You just keep pushing. You have to push through shifting up to shift down.”
Isn’t that true about so many things in our lives? You just keep pushing. For my cycling journey, it has meant that I just keep shifting and pedaling regardless of how effortful or effortless each ride is. Because I know that every time I’m out there pushing myself through a ride, I finish the day as a stronger, faster, and perhaps most importantly, happier cyclist, wife, mother, human being.