“You ABSOLUTELY Can” – Ashtyn
Ashtyn didn’t believe she could do it. She admired women who cycled across the country, but didn’t think she had the right skills, strength, determination... and then she pedaled over three thousand miles across America, and proved herself wrong.
Here are Ashtyn’s tips, encouragement, and inspiration for anyone who dreams of traveling by bicycle.
What did you learn about yourself while cycling?
I learned that I could accomplish anything, no matter how challenging, if I really put my mind to it. I also learned not to be scared to take a risk—something I used to struggle with. I gained a lot of confidence back that I had lost over the year prior.
What did you learn about this country?
I learned that this country is filled with wonderful people. There is so much more good in this world than there is bad, and I think we lose sight of that in our daily lives with the media’s help. I would encourage everyone to get out and experience the country themselves—don’t believe everything you see or read. There are good people!!
“I would encourage everyone to get out and experience the country themselves—don’t believe everything you see or read.”
Riding a bike is a more exposed, vulnerable form of transportation than driving a car. What are the pros and cons of this vulnerability?
A pro is that you get to see everything so much more than you would in a car. You get to smell all of the smells, feel all of the weather and see all of the little details that make our world beautiful. A con is definitely the fact that you are only moving 10-15 mph and the weather affects you so much more than you know! Also, the risk of being on a busy highway, a lot of times with no shoulder and having to trust drivers to see you and go around you (and not text and drive, which is terrifying to think about as a cyclist).
Did family/friends express concern for your safety? How did their fear compare to their support?
Oh yes, my mom and dad were extremely worried about our safety every day. I just told them that people aren’t as scary as they think and that we just have to trust that we will be okay. I couldn’t bring myself to even think about the possibility of getting hit by a car or taking a bad fall while we were racing down mountains, so hearing people be concerned was hard because it forced my mind to go there. We had so much encouragement and support from our family and friends that it made it easier to get up and go every day and not to give up. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the people who supported us, near and far.
“I just tried my best to live day-by-day, mile-by-mile and have faith that nothing bad would happen to us. My faith helped me deal with my fear.”
Talk to us about fear. When did it sneak up on you? How did you cope?
Similar to what I said above, fear definitely snuck up on me when it came to thinking about someone in a car not seeing us. During our trip, the Race Across America was happening, and we ran into a lot of the racers. We heard a story about one racer who was not far behind us in Kansas, riding in the dark and accidentally swerving into the road into a car and being killed instantly. This story made me sick with fear because that could have so easily been us. I coped by not letting myself even think about that possibility. I just tried my best to live day-by-day, mile-by-mile and have faith that nothing bad would happen to us. My faith helped me deal with my fear.
What advice can you offer to other women who are considering bike touring for the first time?
First off, you CAN do it!! Seriously, almost every person I have talked to about this trip thinks it’s the craziest thing ever and their immediate response is “I could never do that,” to which I respond, “You ABSOLUTELY can.” I think that people, and women especially, have such a hard time being confident about taking a risk and doing something scary. It holds them back. My biggest tip is just do it. Start small if you have to, maybe start with 20 miles and see where that takes you. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to…our biggest challenge is conquering our own negative thoughts.
“I think that people, and women especially, have such a hard time being confident about taking a risk and doing something scary. It holds them back.”
What activity, besides cycling, helps you be a better cyclist?
Yoga and meditation help me be a better cyclist because it helps me get centered and relaxed. Cycling long distances does take a toll on your body, and it’s very important to listen to it. My hands still bother me, so if I wake up in the morning and feel like they need a break, I will stay home or go to a yoga class. Our minds need just as much nurturing as our bodies, and yoga is a great way to accomplish both.
What are some things that help you feel more comfortable as a cyclist?
Pepper spray for sure! Dogs can be scary when they run after you. Also, cycling during the day instead of at night makes me feel safer. I also try to stick to back roads and old highways rather than main streets and busy roads. Podcasts and music got me through a lot of boring, long rides too!!