For two years, I felt trapped on the West side of Indianapolis. The location, close to family, seemed a good fit for a twenty-something staring her life during the Great Recession. But the sea of strip malls and fast food chains that consumed the landscape suffocated me. The smell of gasoline choked my lungs as I made the 30-minute trek to anywhere. I hated the blazing sun blaring down on miles and miles of concrete supporting an infrastructure of middle America consumerism.
I yearned to live inside Indy’s cultural scene, to get out of my car and start walking. I found an apartment on the Old North side, only blocks from groceries, theaters, bars, shops, art galleries and more. Finally, I could choose my own adventure as I twisted through the city streets on foot.
One Summer afternoon, I was on a stroll down the Mass Ave strip, when two cyclists zoomed past me. In the stagnant Summer air, I felt a gust of wind in their wake, and it opened my eyes to a part of Indianapolis’ culture I had yet to consider: cycling! Environmentally-friendly travel with the added bonuses of exercise and the ability to get where I’m going faster— what a marvelous concept.
I wanted to join the in-crowd of people who cycle their way through life, who gather at bike hubs and have the inside scoop on living green and looking good while doing it. But just as my imagination was running wild with the possibilities of new-found mobility that voice of nagging self-doubt whispered in my ear.
“Your rounded belly and big thighs will look ridiculous atop a slender bike frame. You’ll show up everywhere looking a hot mess, with helmet hair and sweat stains on your clothes. You’ve got a tiny apartment with no reliable storage for a bike. What if you get hit by a car? What happens when you go so slow motorists and cyclists alike pass you by, point and laugh? There is no way you’ll be able to make biking work for you.”
My hesitancy persisted; I kept my bicycling dreams secret for the next few months. But every time I turned the ignition on my car for a five-minute drive to the grocery, I felt it — warming guilt. Instead of becoming part of the solution, my insecurities had me perpetuating the problem. Eventually, I got to thinking — there must be others like me who want to cycle, but have a slew of excuses why not.
I decided to take the plunge, and pitched an idea to NUVO: a chronicle of my cycling adventures, complete with mishaps and misunderstandings, wild successes and epic failures. I would make myself into a model, a big girl on two wheels, who’ll exorcise her body image issues and social awkwardness through cycling. Operating under the pretense: “if I can do it, anybody can,” I started my research. I bought my bike. I reached out to experts, amateur cyclists and friends who inspired me. And now I proudly proclaim that I am an Indianapolis cyclist.
For the past six months, I’ve shared my adventures on NUVO.net in my blog entitled “The Bicycle Diaries of a Big Girl.” The power I feel after a hard ride, the bliss I feel after a joy ride, the responsibility to nature I feel after a commuting ride connects me to my community, the environment and myself in new and extraordinary ways. I’ve pushed pass my self-imposed limitations. I’ve learned a slew of new vocabulary words. I’ve changed a flat tire. I’ve ridden tours of the city. I’ve discovered parts of Indy I never knew existed. And best of all, I’ve joined a growing community of like-minded citizens hoping to change the world one pedal at a time.