My Cycling Journey By: Meredith Camel
I bought my first road bike when I turned 40. I really didn’t want one, but I was afraid that my wife, Merrill, who had just purchased a new Pinarello, would leave me—and my army-green, 25-year-old tank of a mountain bike—in the dust.
Just a few years prior, I was diagnosed with a debilitating immune disease that left me unable to sustain any duration of exercise, even though I was an avid skier and tennis player for most of my life. Then Merrill and I became fast friends with a cycling couple who encouraged us to give the sport a whirl.
After purchasing her Pinarello from Mack Cycle and Fitness, Merrill brought me back to the shop to test drive the other bike she was considering, ultimately hoping she would get both of the bikes she fancied sitting in our garage. It worked.
My cycling friends rode with me patiently, gradually increasing distance and speed until I was sure that new levels of effort would not summon a disease flare-up. I also switched to a plant-based diet to reduce inflammation and learned how to better manage exacerbating variables, such as dehydration, insufficient sleep, and stress.
I became a regular patron of Mack Cycle, whether for cycling supplies, clothing, service or just to hang out with the Losada family—who always treated me more like a friend than a customer. I began joining all of the events they hosted and co-sponsored during the pre-COVID era, from weekend women’s rides to gravel events.
During one organized gravel ride, Mack Cycle loaned me a $10,000 mountain bike, and by the time I turned that puppy back in, all caked with mud, the seed was planted. A few months later, when Mack Cycle partnered with Giant/Liv to let folks test drive mountain bikes on the Virginia Key trails, the seed took root.
Now, at age 46, I am fully obsessed with a sport that I never imagined I’d pursue. Both road cycling and mountain biking are in my thoughts about 50 million times a day. I love the way mountain biking won’t let me think about anything except my “don’t-hit-a-tree-and-die” pathway strategy, and I love the way I can just zone out and spin on the road bike. Each one enhances performance and fitness of the other.
I am forever grateful to the Mack Cycle team for always encouraging me to ride longer and faster than I think I can, for helping me develop my skills, and most importantly, for helping me overcome my fears. (Thank you, Rachel Losada, for the therapy session that stopped my vigorous shaking after I flipped over my bike and rolled down a hill because my shorts got caught on my seat.)
There is much for me to learn about cycling, but I love passing the torch to help others discover the sport that changed my life. I weigh 25 pounds less than I did before I started riding, and my fitness level is the best in my adult life. My disease symptoms still flair from time to time, but it’s less often now. It has taken six years to build up to my current ability, but I have enjoyed every mile along the way.