Think You're a Weirdo, Think Again!

 

Imagine a ball and chain melted down then reformed and welded into a girls bicycle frame: this was the means I used for my first mountain bike ride. It was enough of a failure to abort any second or third attempts.

Deemed not only unworthy of trails, the re-welded ball and chain was unsuitable for commuting to school and back. My brother got a Bianchi, so I convinced my parents to upgrade me to a Specialized Rockhopper. Soon after a kid saw my sparkly new blue chariot locked up in the bike racks and cornered me with the idea I would hit the trails once again. Given my introductory experience, I had no intentions of going back.

I’ve come to know our most difficult missions are also our most important ones.

One of mine was shyness. I was so incredibly shy that often in school I wanted to make like Casper the Ghost and disappear and reappear whenever suited me best. I could go an entire semester without hardly speaking a word to anybody. It’s painful to remember just how shy I was.

Thankfully, I found a way to escape this debilitating shyness: mountain biking. There your legs do the talking, and luckily my legs could talk.

Each challenge comes bearing its solution and that Specialized Rockhopper took me from my discomfort of sitting in a classroom to connecting me to a circle of friends where I felt accepted and where I belonged. By riding with them, I built enough confidence to promise myself after high school I wouldn’t be shy anymore.

 High School Spoke Mountain Bike Series with my favorite Rocky Mountain jersey and Roach shorts.

High School Spoke Mountain Bike Series with my favorite Rocky Mountain jersey and Roach shorts.

Surely enough, life continued to hand me situations where I didn’t know a single soul. To get better at cycling, I quickly learned I’d need to speak to people and network. Midseason 2010 - by talking - I had the opportunity to race on a makeshift Italian team. I was aiming for the Commonwealth Games and the European circuit was exactly what would qualify me. Despite not knowing anything about Italy, let alone anybody on the team or even where Tuscany was, the proposal was an obvious yes.

When you’re sure about something, you feel it in your bones.

Once I got to Italy, I felt at home amongst the Italians and their magical way of life. I couldn’t understand a damn thing but again, in cycling, we understand each other through the ethers. The way people ride says a lot about who they are. Speaking isn’t a necessity.

Bike racing relieved me from shyness and was the means in which I traveled the US, Europe, China, the Middle East, and also Bermuda. But when I reached Italy, I realized racing took me as far as I needed to go.

Life has this funny way of introducing you to people who you most need to meet. I met exactly the right people that helped channel my strengths into pursuing my unique and perfectly unconventional life. I happened to stumble into a new growing market of cycling travel, not bike touring but actual road cycling.

The monkeys and me. Photograph: Content Lab

The spirit of Lucca Cycling Club is about bringing forth the elements that have brought my team and I so much joy: being fully accepted and embraced for exactly who we are, the beauty and self-discovery of cycling in Italy, and connections with people who value these experiences as much as we do.

You never know who you’ll meet, and if it’s right, you’ll just know it.