Getting Back on the Bicycle


On the first day of our Alaska trip we were up early. It was hard not to be because the sun rose at about 4:30 a.m. (after a short sojourn from setting at approximately 11:30).

We brought our 11-year-old daughter Anna with us in this summer before Middle School because we thought she would appreciate this amazing journey. Time was moving so fast with her and we just wanted a window to slow down together.

Since Anna loves biking these days, my husband Chris wanted to take her out on a ride on the first day before we started our official tour on Alaska Railroad.

I’ve been reluctant to ride bikes since I took on the Tour De Pink (which is an amazing ride for an amazing cause more than a decade ago). I didn’t train well for this ride and spent the majority of the time in the sweeper van. I was intimidated riding alongside cars. Plus, it made my butt hurt.

That didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the movement of cycling. Actually, Spinning (indoor cycling) is one of my favorite activities. My instructor jams great music. I’m on a stable bike. I feel in control.  

So I figured I would walk for an hour while Chris and Anna were out for their ride and then do some writing. Right before I set out on this vacation, I was working on a book project, which had me in loner mode (which is not the best place for me to be).

I decided I would walk with them to Downtown Bicycles in Anchorage. That’s where we met Pete who had other plans for me.

As he was selecting bicycles for Anna and Chris, he pointed to a word right by the cash register: “Disparity.”

He wanted to make sure the riders would stay together. I imagine it’s because riders who stay together have more fun and get less lost.

 He got my husband a fat tire bike to slow him down a bit. He fit Anna with a helmet and a bright orange mountain bike. That way there would be less, “Hurry up” and “Hey, wait up” between them, he explained.

As my husband and daughter tried out their bikes, riding up and down the sidewalk in front of the store, he turned to me and asked, “And what about you, why aren’t you riding today?”

“I’m more of a hiker than a biker. I guess I’m just not comfortable riding one,” I said.

“Have you tried an eBike? Hold on let me get one for you to try,” he said. Before I could answer, he came out with a white Fuji E-Crosstown bike. It looked like a normal bike but had a little peddle assist, especially when you go up the hills. “You push this arrow up and say, ‘See ya later, suckers!’”  


He took a phone call with a rental inquiry, “Yes, the most beautiful bike trail in the US is five blocks from my store.”  

I was sold.

He had me try two different frames and got fitted with a lime green helmet. At first, I was a bit wobbly. But after a few peddle strokes I was back at it.

We headed to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, an amazing 11-mile gentle stretch of pathways along the Pacific Ocean. It was gentle and flat. We zoomed along – typically Chris in front, then Anna and then me.

Anna did such an amazing job — especially on the hills!

Anna did such an amazing job — especially on the hills!

After 11 miles, we needed to find our way back. We took Pete’s alternative route through a sea plane base and Hurricane Park. While we didn’t see any moose, we were seeing Alaska at our own pace – without disparity. In total, we rode about 24 miles. It was epic and I was so glad I rode along.

And while my butt still hurt, I was back on the bicycle. The truth is I probably didn’t need the eBike, my legs are wicked strong from hiking but this little push – from Pete and this awesome Fuji ebike let me feel the wind in my hair and have the confidence of riding again. And it is a reminder, as Albert Einstein said, “Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.”

I wish more people would think about disparity like Pete does… and see an activity as open for everyone and finding ways for everyone to have fun. (And sure, he made an extra sale out of it but I feel like I got the winning end of the bargain).  

I meet so many people around the country who are afraid to be active because of their body shape or image. I know I’ve been dismissed as a hiker because of my body shape.

Pete saw me, my fears and found a way to make biking a possibility. He was the difference between me not riding a bike to coasting along one of the nation’s most beautiful trails with my husband and daughter. For that, I will be forever grateful.

And if you’re ever in town, tell Pete I said, “Thank You”:


PS if you’re looking for ways to get back on the bicycle after a long absences, here are some tips if you don’t have Pete near you:

Kara WhitelyComment