by Jennifer Von Geldern
Eva Zeiher’s recent experience on a Bike Like a Girl Second Sunday ride is a classic example of a key Bike Like a Girl philosophy – provide a safe, fun, NO-DROP ride to encourage women and girls to ride – and the value of dedicated leaders and sweeps. Eva (pictured above, right) and ride leader Tanya (center) shared a remarkable moment on that July 9 outing, and as I, too, was on the ride, I was able to witness it.
The ride offered two routes, as most Second Sunday rides do – one longer with more climbing, and one shorter with less climbing. Of the 20+ cyclists who attended, almost all opted for the shorter route on that hot, humid day. As the shorter-route riders were ready to part ways with us, Eva had deliberated about whether to go with them or come with those of us on the longer route.
“I’d ridden with Bike Like a Girl before and had always chosen the longer route. I just felt off that particular day, though,” she says. “I have asthma and had used my inhaler more than usual leading up to the ride. I was familiar with the roads we were taking, so I pretty much knew what I was up against, but it was already getting hot, despite the fact that they’d moved the start time from 9:00 to 8:00 a.m. Ultimately, I just figured I’d be okay.”
We were few in number, but Bike Like a Girl, true to form, still sent a leader and a sweep rider with us. Once Eva had made up her mind to tackle the longer route, we were a party of five. We set out on what would be a 38-mile ride with nearly 2,000 feet of climbing.
A cyclist for 15 years, Eva logs 35 to 40 miles each weekend, and has ridden the roads our route used. When we came to Butler Road, she was familiar with it. It has a devilish rise that is short, but quite steep. Seeing that steep rise and feeling less than her best that day, Eva stopped at the bottom.
“I’d been up on Butler before, but it had been a while, and specific memories of it hadn’t stuck with me,” she says. “When I saw that hill that day, I lost it. I didn’t remember it being that steep and I thought it was much longer than it really is. When I saw it, I was just done.”
At the foot of the hill, Eva told Tanya, “I can’t do this. I’m going home.” Tanya joined our group at the top of the hill, where I was struggling to recover from the climb, which had pushed me to my maximum output. Tanya took a moment, then declared she was going back to get Eva, and disappeared over the brink.
Eva relates the conversation at the bottom of the hill. “Tanya came back and said, ‘I don’t think you should quit’ and pointed out that we were already halfway through the ride – if I’d turned around I’d have had as far to ride to get back as if I’d stayed with the group. I thought it was so cool that she actually came back. I’d never had that happen before.”
Not long after, both ladies appeared, walking together with their bikes up the hill. We continued on our route, and made our way back to Roseville Cyclery, the starting and finishing point of our ride. “Even though I was hot and exhausted, it felt great to finish with the group,” says Eva. “The Bike Like a Girl leaders and sweeps prove that they really do care about the sport and want others to like it and enjoy themselves.”
“By encouraging riders the way Bike Like a Girl does, it helps ensure a good ride experience,” observes Eva. “We need every woman who wants to be on a bike to stick with it. The more of us that ride together, the more of a voice we’ll have when we need to be heard, and Bike Like a Girl promotes that.”
Jennifer von Geldern writes for Sacramento-based Comstock’s business magazine and the national publication Horse & Rider on a monthly basis, and her work has been published in a dozen magazines and online throughout her 20 years as a freelance writer. Based in Yuba City, California, she's begun applying her love of writing to her passion for bicycles and cycling, and has become a frequent contributor to Cycle California! magazine.