SHAPE MAGAZINE—”Seriously, Cristina, stop staring at your computer! You’re gonna crash,” any one of my six cycling sisters in NYC would shout whenever we’d go on long training rides across the George Washington Bridge to the open, smooth-paved roads of New Jersey. They were right. I was being unsafe, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the ever-changing stats (speed, cadence, RPMs, grade, time) on my Garmin, mounted on the handlebars of my Specialized Amira road bike. Between 2011 and 2015, I was all about improving my pace, eating hills for breakfast, and, when I was feeling gutsy enough, pushing myself to let go on harrowing descents. Or rather, hold tight.
“Oh my god, I almost hit 40 miles per hour on that downhill,” I’d proclaim with my heart pounding, only to get a smug response from the master, Angie, that she’d hit 52. (Did I mention I’m also a tad competitive?)
Considering that I went from learning to properly bike at age 25 (What? I’m a New Yorker!) straight into nearly a dozen triathlons (I love a good fitness challenge) then into a 545-mile ride from San Francisco to LA (watch me do it in 2 minutes), it’s no wonder that I never associated the sport with being a leisure activity. Pedaling always served a purpose: Go faster, go harder, prove something to yourself. Every single time.
And that’s how I ended up on a Specialized Pitch Sport 650b mountain bike in the middle of a safari park on Intrepid Travel’s new 13-day Cycle Tanzania trip last July. While it had been two years since I had kept up a regular training regimen on the bike—I had hung up my wheels, literally, on my Brooklyn apartment wall in favor of wings to travel more for work—I figured it couldn’t be that hard to get back in the saddle. I mean, “it’s like riding a bike,” right?