Patty Chang Anker's first bike was girly and sparkly, with foot brakes and no gears. But when she was ten, her family moved from Canada to the Bronx.
"In the Bronx, no one I knew had a bike," Anker said. "It wasn't safe to ride. So there ended my bike career."
Three decades later, the yoga teacher and mother of two who blogs at Facing Forty Upside Down, is back in the saddle as she prepares to join 32,000 other cyclists riding in the TD Five Boro Bike Tour on Sunday.
The 40-mile ride, which begins in Lower Manhattan and weaves through every borough before ending in Staten Island, is symbolic on several levels for Anker, the author of SOME NERVE: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave.
Growing up, Anker said, she was more bookish than adventurous, and cycling is still firmly outside of her comfort zone.
"I’mAsian," Anker said with a laugh. "I wasn’t groomed to do anything fun."
She recalled a trip to Nantucket where her husband easily biked around while she struggled and felt lonely. But when they had children, something clicked. She didn't want them to grow up feeling limited by fear the way she always had.
"I didn't really ride until we had kids and I felt like they should learn," she said. "We live in the suburbs now, and I felt like I had no credibility telling them to try something I couldn't do. So I realized that there are so many things in my life that I was afraid of. I was afraid of the pain of having to learn something I might not be good at."
Her blog was born, and then the book, which investigates how ordinary people face their fears. In researching it, her studious ways paid off.
"I’m a really good student so I did the adult 'Learn to Ride' lesson with Bike New York," she said. "I said, 'Well, I think I need to get some more experience,' and then I thought, 'What if I got enough experience to actually ride the Five Boro myself?'"
Samuel Slaton, the Communications Director of Bike New York, asked Anker to blog about her experiences for Biking the Big Apple, the organization's official blog.
"She really is inspiring, and her story has been a huge encouragement to others who were hesitant to take on the 40-mile Tour," Slaton said. "She inspired over 40 folks to sign up and join her group.
Anker bought a bike in February and has been training since then. On Saturday, the day before the tour, shewill be appearing on a Women and Bicycling panel at theBike Expoon Pier 36.
"I am excited," she said. "I feel like Bike New York gave me so many tools and ways of thinking about things, so even if the things I fear happen I know how to handle them. If my chain slips off I know how to put it back on."
Team Some Nerve, named after Anker's book, will be wearing bright yellow on Sunday.
"We'll have on T-shirts the color of sunshine," Anker said. "And big goofy grins.
Five Things You Should Know About the Five Boro Bike Tour
A blind man from the Bronx will be biking in the Tour this year. The Daily News reports that Chris Wilkinson, 67, will be riding a tandem bike with his training partner, Jack Maged, 65.
The 40-mile route will be traffic-free, meaning that five bridges, five highways, and various streets across the city will be shut down for roughly five-hour stretches on Sunday.
Backpacks, hydration packs and bags larger than 420 cubic inches are banned at this year's event. Cyclists will have to pack supplies in saddle bags, fanny packs, or water bottles. Rehydration stations will be set up along the route.
Cyclists are allowed to listen to music while they ride, but New York State Law mandates that they can only have one earbud in at a time.
The money raised from registration fees will go toward Bike New York's free bicycle education program, which last year taught more than 15,000 New Yorkers how to ride.
Follow Emily Johnson on Twitter @emilyjreports