When Patty Chang Anker found herself in her 40s and still afraid of biking, heights, and water, she decided to do something about it. In her book Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave, Patty recounts how she faced down myriad fears and how everyone can become braver, happier and stronger by facing theirs. Oprah.com called her journey “downright inspiring.”
For the past few months, she’s been blogging about her experience training for the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, the world’s biggest charitable bike ride. Follow her on Twitter (@PattyChangAnker), see what else she’s up to on her blog, Facing Forty Upside Down, and stop by Bike Expo New York on May 3rd to hear her speak on the Women’s Biking in NYC panel discussion. She’ll be signing copies of Some Nerve immediately following the panel. This is her fifth—and penultimate—blog entry. Click here to read her first, and check back in May for her post-Tour recap!
It’s almost here! Four months after declaring that I, a beginner bicyclist, would train for and ride the TD Five Boro Bike Tour (Take the #SomeNerve Challenge), the event is only DAYS AWAY. From careening around the Roosevelt Island Sportspark gym in Bike New York’s Bicycling Basics class in January to How to Buy a Bike in February (where I had an anxiety attack on block #4 of the test ride on Jay Street in DUMBO and almost quit right there), there’ve been moments when I’ve wondered if this was all a big mistake. I’ve always been afraid of gathering speed, losing control, feeling or causing pain, and my few forays on a bicycle had been white knuckled (and one ended in a ditch). By my early 40s, bicycling was in a growing category of things I feared; deciding to face some of those fears and experience life more fully is why I wrote the book Some Nerve and formed Team #SomeNerve for the TD Five Boro Bike Tour. I wanted to overcome my fear, but by March I was concerned. Practicing in a gym or yard was one thing, but navigating potholes, other cyclists, hills, and bridges over the course of 40 miles is a whole lot of other things! With nine weeks remaining, it was time to get on the bike and go. And oh! The places you can go on a bike!
And the people you meet!
Biking as a couple and as a family – something my bicycling-loving husband had stopped daring to hope for – is now possible:
There are five bridges on the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, so I knew I needed to practice to overcome my fear of heights, speed, and water. I figured I’d hit three birds with one stone.
[I took this photo as a delay tactic as I tried to steady my hands.] Right at the start, my chain fell off (which I could deal with, thanks to the Bike Maintenance 101 class I’d taken), and then a young strapping guy fell off his bike right in front of me. “You’re going to be fine,” my husband said. Sometimes the only way through a fear is through the fear. So I pedaled all the way up, praying to not slide backwards on the incline. The subway and cars rumbling by, pedestrians and cyclists all around, boats on the water below—I felt like I was a part of New York City in a way I’d never felt before.
The views were incredible from the top, but I appreciated even more the view of the bridge from back on the ground.
Bike New York’s Education Director, Rich Conroy, then led us through DUMBO and over the Manhattan Bridge. On that ascent my husband called out, “Look down!”—we were right over Jay Street, where only a couple of months ago I had frozen, thinking the hill was too steep, the challenge too difficult. I pedaled through the fear then, and I’ll pedal through the fear from now on. Because often, on the other side of fear lies freedom, community, and indescribable joy.
In four months, thanks to Bike New York’s classes, a lot of practice, and support from my team and all of you, I’ve gone from a bicycling beginner to Five Boro-ready. What will your #SomeNerve Challenge be? See you on the road on May 4th! (Look out for the 40+ members of Team #SomeNerve on the Tour—over half of us have never ridden the Tour before. We range in age from 20s – 60s, we hail from as far as Costa Rica, New Hampshire, Chicago, Maryland, and across the tri-state area. All of us embrace the idea of taking on new challenges and making new friends. We’ll be wearing bright yellow T-shirts—if you see us, give a friendly WOOT! and we’ll know you’ve got some nerve too!)
Patty will be signing copies of Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave at Bike Expo New York (Bike New York Booth, Saturday May 3, 2 – 3pm), immediately following her appearance on the Women’s Biking in NYC: Your Questions Answered panel. Oprah.com called Some Nerve “downright inspiring,” and among the fears it addresses (water, heights, public speaking, driving, death) is a chapter on bicycling, so get it for the non-bike people in your life and they may join you at next year’s TD Five Boro Bike Tour!