by Kirsten Swanson
I guess you know you are officially a cyclist when you have five bikes and can’t bear to part with any one of them, especially the 1972 blue single-speed Schwinn with coaster brakes. Or that you’re a chic with 5 pairs of cycling shoes and no stilettos.
I’ve always loved cycling, whether it was following my cousins over jumps at age 5 trying to get some good air or at age 35 following professional mountain bikers in Fruita, Colorado over jumps and trying not to fall at least once so the photographer could get a good photograph of me. At the end of the photo shoot the photographer said, “I can’t believe you kept going off that jump and trying to nail it.” My response was “Wow, I guess since I was the model I didn’t think I had the option to say, ‘Forget that.’” Turns out that’s when I went into Pearl Izumi headquarters I saw a huge seven-foot banner of myself in the lobby. When I asked why they chose a photo of me wiping out rather than when I nailed the jump, they said they liked the wipeout because I was smiling. In fact I wasn’t really smiling, I was gritting my teeth and thinking, “Shit I have to do it again.” Thanks to all the wipeouts that day, I have a nice scar from my pedal on the back of my right calf. When new friends ask what it is from I say that I was attacked by a mountain lion when I lived in Colorado. It’s unreal the amount of people that have actually believed me.
When friends have asked me if I was a mountain biker or roadie, I’ve never hesitated to say roadie. There is really nothing I’d rather be doing on a beautiful summer day than riding my bike on a quiet country road going up and down hills.
I joined a cycling team in 2009 so that I could try to get faster so I would be able to complete the bike portion of an Ironman distance race in California in the allotted time. In 2010 I undertook the most difficult cycling challenge of my life by riding the L’Etape du California mountain stage from Claremont to Mt. Baldy. Before I left for the trip a reporter called to ask me if she could interview me. I asked her why she wanted to speak with me and she said she thought it was amazing that a woman from the flatlands of Chicago would attempt such a ride. I declined the interview because honestly, I was afraid that I would not be able to complete the ride given the 91 mile route and 11,322 feet in elevation gain. I am very proud to say that I was one of the few women to attempt and finish the ride and that only about 65 percent of the riders were actually able to finish. I’d love to do another mountain stage ride, but I haven’t found anyone else that is willing to attempt it with me. Perhaps it’s because I tell them we have to ride Alpe D’Huez at least once a week on the computrainer.
I feel very grateful that I now have an amazing team that I can continue to share my love for the road with and don’t forget to let me know if you like climbing. I’m not so fast, but you can count on me to make it to the top without whining.