So the old news is, I got a new bike! But so many people have been asking how I like it I thought I should just tell y’all!
The short story is this: I hate to love it.
The long story is this: Derek and I do quite a bit of bike riding. It’s a fun way to spend time together, be outside, be active, and obviously the beers involved are an added bonus. After being diagnosed, I didn’t even think about riding my bike. I was clearly more concerned about things like Lollapalooza. So when summer time came and we got the bikes out again, I was a little frustrated with my new lack of ability.
One of my residual effects is an out of whack balance system. For the day to day, I do pretty well. My balance feels weird in my head, but I feel like I compensate for it pretty well. I have quite a few little tricks I use, like always watching the person in front of me, keeping my eyes straight instead of looking around a bunch, etc. But the month of June was particularly hard for me, and those tricks weren’t even working.
I was having a real hard time on my two wheel bike. Starting and stopping was a nightmare. Making turns was nerve-wracking. And any sort of street traffic was just out of the question. Every time Derek and I would go out I would be just counting the mileage in my head. I kept thinking if only I could get to 10 miles, then it would be good. In the meantime, I could only stare at Derek’s back, not speak to anyone, and go about 7 miles an hour. (Not to mention, hold back some tears. Not proud… but true.) And in the end, when the ride was over, my brain was so exhausted from concentrating so hard, that rest was in order. Not to mention, I could definitely not stop to have a beer. That would have really sent me over the edge.
It obviously got to the point where bike riding was not fun. And that sucked.
So my insanely positive, optimistic husband began suggesting different options for me. At first it was kind of a joke. But, really I wouldn’t mind riding on one of those little “trail along” carts! But then some real options came into the conversation.
We started with renting a tandem bike out at Gray’s Lake. That was a test of our marriage. I felt like I was a confidence and balance nightmare for Derek. I can’t imagine having me on the back of a bike. (Minor gushing moment, but Derek really has more patience than I ever knew or imagined. Whoa.) The one good thing about the tandem though was it felt normal again. Riding it reminded my body what normal bike riding was supposed to feel like. Taking a turn, or riding at a decent speed felt right. The frustrating things about tandem riding (besides my confidence, of course) are the back person really can’t see much of anything except the back of the person in front of them, which is what I was doing before and was honestly hoping to do a little less of. Also, there really isn’t much independence with tandem riding. I am going wherever Derek is going. I am stopping when he stops. I am cruising when he is cruising. So, while it was an alright experience (the second time!) it wasn’t something I saw us doing on the regular.
During all this, Derek had also been suggesting recumbent trikes.
As in, three wheels.
And honestly in the beginning, I was all “Hell. No.”
Little disclaimer here, I judged the hell out of people who rode those recumbent trikes. I thought it would be the easiest thing to do. I didn’t consider it a workout, or much of anything else beyond a joke. And also, let’s be real (I mean, really real. Like ugly real.) I like to be good at things. And since I have been diagnosed, I want to be really good at things that other people with MS have struggled with. Honestly, I want to be able to do things that people wouldn’t expect, and do them well. I don’t want people to say, “Kari rides a trike because her MS causes problems with her balance.” I wanted people to say, “Yeah, Kari still rocks two wheels even though her MS causes problems with her balance.” (I know! I think about what other people think! I am working on it! I promise!)
I was incredibly prideful about riding my two wheel bike.
And that’s when Derek finally said, “So you hate the idea so much that you just aren’t going to ride bikes anymore?” Ugh. You know I didn’t want to stop. But, man!
So I agreed to test ride one.
When we got to the bike shop to initially look at trikes I wasn’t over the pride quite yet. I tried to sucker poor Thomas, our salesman, into saying that other bikers think of people on trikes the way I do. I tried my hardest. I’m all, “Come on Thomas! You are obviously a big biker. What do you really think about people who ride trikes?” And he said, “You know, there are so many people that this option works for, people who just love bike riding too much to give it up. They just want to be out having fun and this is how they do it.” Just like that. All matter of fact. All “if you like it enough you will get over your pride” like. And so then I cried, because apparently being prideful also makes you sappy.
After a few tears, I took the trike out for a ride. It was so good to be riding a bike without exhausting my brain. It felt so good to ride beside Derek and chat while we were going. It felt so good to cruise around corners without freaking out. It felt so good to be moving again without a feeling of panic. It was good. And eventhough I hated to admit that it was good. I was really excited about riding so carefree again.
So, 2,500 dollars later (whoa! Thanks for the little loan, dad!) I took home a Catrike Trail and I love it. There are days I am still a little self conscious about it (until I drag my own ass up a hill without being able to stand up or lean forward. INSANE!!) and there are days that I can do some riding on my two wheels with better balance and confidence. I am now a girl with a few options. And I am totally okay with that. Because then the hardest decision of my bike ride is only where to stop for a drink.