One Bad Princess Among Friends

by | Apr 15, 2007

I nearly quit before I started. When I arrived for my first ride with Steve Rhoades in June 2003, I saw a group of attractive strangers arrayed in bright spandex. I couldn’t actually spot the differences between their bikes and mine, but I knew for certain they existed, and I knew that I was terminally un-cool. It was a quintessential first-day-at-a-new-school experience.
Fortunately, I wasn’t nine years old but 49, and after walking back to my car then turning around again, I summoned the willingness to introduce myself. I made light of my clothing (Jeans! What was I thinking?) and of my inexperience. Everyone was incredibly nice, and their smiles and good will supported me through a 10 mile ride that left me exhausted, exhilarated, and determined to buy cycling shorts and glasses without delay.
After a month or so I started riding in to meet the team for the Saturday rides. These rides were too difficult for me; however, I could almost keep up with the group during their 8 to 10 mile warm up. Since the route came within two miles of my house, it all worked out very nicely.
One Saturday I rode in through pouring rain. When I pulled up I exclaimed in a rather cocky tone, “I didn’t know a person could get this wet!” Another rider observed, “Oh, you can get a lot wetter than that.” I thought for a moment and declared firmly, “I don’t think princesses get wetter than this.” We cracked up, and princess jokes became a staple of the team culture.
Some time later I began riding in for the Mondays and Friday rides, too, so I could get more mileage and seat time. When my teammates realized how much I was riding, one of them (Julie) opined, “You’re a bad princess.”
Thenceforth the women on the team became “bad princesses,” exulting in the contrast between our toughness and our femininity. As the weather cooled, I seeded a tradition of wearing lace-trimmed black silk long johns under our cycling togs. All winter long we proclaimed our bad princess-hood with road-grimed faces and black lace.
On my one-year anniversary with the team. We rode 33 miles at over 16 mph. That may not impress you, but it impressed the hell out of me. In honor of the anniversary (at the suggestion of teammate Carrie), I showed up for that ride in high black boots, evening gloves, earrings in our team colors, and with a paper tiara duct-taped to my helmet. Yes, I changed before we actually set out, but not before someone snapped a picture. That’s me in the middle, flanked by Nancy and Sally.