I first really got into cycling about four years ago, after not having ridden a bike since elementary school, when I used to ride my Schwinn ten speed mountain bike the half mile to campus.
I was 25 and living in a picturesque Brooklyn neighborhood when I decided I needed a chic cruiser bike to roll around town on in dresses and heels and buy flowers and baguettes like the French girls seen on blogs and Pinterest.
I purchased a $400 Linus Roadster Classic, single speed with swept back handle bars and a coaster brake, and it was indeed very chic. I rode it (with trepidation) on occasion, but mostly it looked really beautiful in my studio apartment.
Then a friend of mine who had recently purchased a legitimate carbon frame road bike invited me to join her on a group ride with some friends one fall afternoon. The plan was to take the train out of the city, then ride 8-10 miles at a "chill pace" to a nearby apple orchard. The ride was beautiful, the apples were delicious, and I was sincerely in over my head.
My 20lb steel frame single speed looked fashion-blog-worthy but was not ideal for the rolling hills we encountered, and it and I were no match for the other cyclists in the group who were far fitter and on more terrain-appropriate bikes than I. I struggled through the entire ride, but persevered, and by the time we got on the train to head home I decided I needed a real road bike.
That spring I got a bonus at work and put it toward an aluminum frame 10 speed entry-level road bike, and immediately fell in love with it. I began joining weekend group rides and taking it to a local park for a few loops on weekday mornings.
When I got more comfortable, I began commuting to work on my bike, which was terrifying the first time. But after I learned which routes were the safest and how to properly maneuver through the traffic of New York City, I began to relish my time on my bike each morning and evening, as a delicious antidote to days spent at a desk, in front of a computer.
After a few years of steadily getting stronger on my bike, I registered for a women's racing clinic in Central Park. This was a mock bike race for first time racers, guided by marshals to ensure safe pack riding. It was a terrific experience, way less scary than I thought it would be, and in a field of 40+ starters, I came in 8th.
I was "bit by the racing bug", as they say, and began jumping into local races. The first several were humbling learning experiences, but after a summer of racing nearly every weekend, I was able to hang in there even in open field races, competing with elite level riders.
At the end of the season, I began spending time with a few local race teams who were entertaining taking on new riders. I was lucky enough to land a spot on my dream team, Radical Media, which I'd come to regard as the best and classiest team in NYC. I trained hard with them over the winter, and started working with a personal coach, who helped me bring my fitness to the next level.
This season, rather than focusing on merely hanging in there, I'm looking to get some results and learn how to win bike races. Since beginning racing one year ago, cycling has consumed my life and most of my time, and I love it. It feels great to be part of such a strong community of insanely fit people, and to have such inspiring teammates and friends. I'm 100% hooked on the thrill of racing and the feeling of strength and empowerment that it gives me.
About the Author: Emma Frame is a designer at Calvin Klein and originally hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma where she she was an Indian Princess with the best tribe ever.