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  1. #1
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    Anxiety while biking alone

    Hello All. I live in a small town, lots of country roads to bike on - which is great, but I have extreme anxiety over going out there by myself to bike. I can bike around town no problem, but I prefer to get longer rides in and the only way to do that is to hit the country roads. I am nervous about getting hit, dogs chasing me, etc.. I have had a few problems over the years, rude comments by stupid teenagers, some dogs, and once almost got hit by a truck. I suffer from anxiety already which doesn't help. I do have a biking partner on occasion, but I don't want to rely on him and want to be able to go out by myself. Does anyone have any tips for keeping calm while biking alone? I've been out enough with my friend to know the best routes for me to go, but getting out there by myself is the hardest part. I haven't found any other women to bike with, and the nearest bike club is about an hour away. Thank you for any advice!

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    Learn how to quickly fix a flat and carry protection. Always ride with a partner on those long country roads...

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    As Yogi Berra supposedly said, 90% of this game is half mental.

    I'd suggest you start focusing on all the good things that happen on a ride. Ride around town, and 99 cars didn't pass you closely, or yell something rude. (Maybe it was a bad day and one did, but count the good ones today.) Most drivers are careful and polite most of the time. It's how they get to work, shopping, etc., and they really don't want to be encumbered by a visit with a cop.

    You're comfortable in town, now how about the "attraction" a half mile out of town? It could be a barn, a big tree, or something like that. Go ride out there tomorrow, and come back. How far did you get without a problem? Try that two or three times this week. Next week extend it to something two miles out, and keep going until you don't bother counting.

    There are a few other things you can do that will help. Carry a can of Halt! (on a handlebar mount, if you can find one) to deal with dogs. Watch the dogs carefully - how many of them want to run along the side of their yard, playing with you? If they really are coming after you, stop and get ready to squirt; you might be surprised that a lot just want you to stop and pet them. Also, check out lane position; it seems that most car and truck drivers give you as much room as you take. If you ride on the edge of the road, taking zero space, that's how much they give you as they squeeze by. Get two feet away from the edge of the road, and they'll pass you with two feet to spare.

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    Senior Member Highgear's Avatar
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    You could #1 move. #2 place a craig's list ad for a riding partner , or #3 ask around at the local bike shop.

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    Thank you to pdlamb, I really appreciate your thoughtful advice. I will try it out, and you are right, it is 90% mental. Wondermonkey, thanks - I had no idea I would stir up the *** aspect on this thread and I don't want to start it now, but I do carry Halt.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I agree ... Move ..


    my favorite bike tours , had me going to a different country than My own .
    Last edited by fietsbob; 04-07-14 at 10:37 AM.

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    I worry somewhat about being hit by motor vehicles also. There are people who are angry at the world and others who are inattentive or texting or whatever. I avoid busy roads or state highways and stay on the quiet country roads. I am fortunate to have many such roads nearby. I also always ride with a very visible jersey and would like to think I am more than ordinarily alert to what motorists are doing by keeping my own thoughts in the present.

  8. #8
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jencyclist70 View Post
    Thank you to pdlamb, I really appreciate your thoughtful advice. I will try it out, and you are right, it is 90% mental. Wondermonkey, thanks - I had no idea I would stir up the *** aspect on this thread and I don't want to start it now, but I do carry Halt.
    When discussing protection it is one of the available methods and it should be brought up. It can then be dismissed if the rider is against it.

    Having your protection visible is always a concern. If not visible then it is not as handy. When campus police are discussing the different sprays they also discuss how to carry it. If you have it visible it invites trouble from those "looking for a reason".
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    Personally, if you're anxious, I would carry a cell phone. I personally do not because I like not being bugged when I ride and I never get that far away from civilization that I can't walk my way back from anything that might happen. As far as flats and mechanicals, if you equip your bike with hard-case/flat resistent tires (Continental Gatorskins, for example), you will dramatically reduce your likelihood of flatting. Secondly, if you make sure you carry enough water and either an energy bar or a homemade PB&J, you will be prepared from a sustenance standpoint, should you get a bit lost. Those are going to be the things most likely to happen.

    As far as cars and dogs, just ride defensively but smartly and you'll avoid accidents as best you can. You may also want to pick roads that run through a state park or are otherwise lightly traveled. Those are not only nicer in many cases, but the lower traffic means fewer worries about accidents, handling your bike in traffic, etc. You've just got to get yourself out there. Once you have a few nice rides, all these anxieties will go away.

    I had my first ride in about 6 weeks yesterday after being forced off the bike due to a wrist fracture (not from biking, but a slip and fall). Initially, I was concerned about how the rattle from bumps in the road and similar things were going to bug/worry me, but after a mile or so, I got back into the rhythm and had a nice ride. But I played it smart and avoided major hills because my core isn't in the shape it would typically be this time of the year and I didn't want to place further burdens on my hands and wrist.

    When it comes to heckling/rude comments, I sometimes do the exact opposite of what you're supposed to and give it right back. Is it the smartest thing to do? No way, but I live in a well-traveled suburban area, so sometimes I just give it right back.

    Once you relax, you'll realize that very little, if anything, is likely to happen and you'll find biking actually helps with your anxiety and stress.

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    Since you've described your feelings as anxiety as opposed to fear, I assume you recognise your feelings for what they are - something of an over reaction to the things you're getting nervous about.

    It might help to both reflect on the unlikelihood of anything really bad happening to you out there, but also to prepare yourself for some possibilities such that you're appropriately equipped, and also know-what-to-do in the situation. This should help your confidence.

    There are for example a number of things you could do to prepare for the possibility of running into some overly friendly doggies. Here's an article about what to do in this situation: crazyguyonabike.com: Bicycle Touring: Dealing with Dogs, by Neil Gunton and a page where you can see the pepper-spray mounted on his handlebars : The Art of Bicycle Touring: Handlebars: Drops vs trekking, stems, mirrors and handlebar bags. Carrying pepper-spray isn't something I'd personally consider necessary, but then I don't worry about running into dogs and you do. Perhaps if you were confident you were prepared for such a situation, your anxiety would ease.

    I'm also assuming that your anxiety stems more from the prospect of going out on these country lanes rather than the reality of actually being there. If so, as you probably know there's no greater remedy than just biting the bullet, saying "to hell with it" and going out there anyway. It's not easy, but that's how we build confidence that we didn't previously have. With that in mind I think it would be great if you manage to overcome this rather than relying on having a regular cycling partner, even if you find one. As nice as it is to cycle with other(s) it's also good to feel empowered to be able to do it yourself.

  11. #11
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    Seems like the biggest issue is car traffic:"rude comments,
    almost got hit". My suggestion is to ride early in the morning
    when there is very little traffic. In the winter months; this might
    mean that you have to ride in the dark. I used to work afternoon
    shifts and really enjoyed my ride home after midnight when I
    almost have the roads to myself.

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  12. #12
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    No simple solution. A lot of the issue is your perception of your personal safety, not your actual safety.
    I know some women that pretty much don't ride alone, period.
    I know others that it doesn't seem to bother them.
    Keep checking on co-riders to ride with- at the bike club, also find out if they have any members in your direction, check at local bike shops.
    For me (big ugly guy), it's not an issue of personal safety so much, but I get tired of riding around by myself. Solution for randonneuring rides: tandem bike. Riding with one of those aforementioned women.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  13. #13
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    I prefer riding with others too... and I get a little anxious when I ride alone, because anything can happen. My favorite rides are off the beaten path, so it can feel isolated.

    You can check with a local bike shop, there may be others in the same boat as you. I mentioned my meetup group in one of the shops I visit, and he suggested bringing in some cards because people are always looking for someone to ride with. In my case, I am a slow rider, so I offer an alternative to the hammerfests that seem to dominate the other groups in the area.

    I started the group on Meetup.com to try to attract people of similar cycling interests in my area. It does cost $72 every 6 months to be an organizer (other members it is free), but I consider that I am doing a public service, along with getting someone else to ride with.

    This can be effective if people in your area use it at all. I have used it somewhat effectively in my area, but see much better acceptance in New England (Boston area, and southern NH) where a friend has been using it for a while.

    You always have the option to cancel a meetup if there is only a guy or two coming that you don't know. As a large man, I don't worry about such things, but I know that for others there is reason to be cautious. If you do it, and get any response,. make the first couple of rides short, and in a safe area to get to know some of the people. Or, make sure to schedule the first couple when your friend can ride with you too.
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  14. #14
    covered in cat fur katsrevenge's Avatar
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    As a fellow female rider who has suffered from anxiety in the past....

    I'm thinking that it isn't so much a worry of being attacked as it is a worry that 'something' bad will happen while you are out there by yourself?

    I get that way sometimes. What I do, if I'm going to be in a shady area alone, is carry an old flip phone that only calls 911 (and has a battery that never dies). That way I always have a voice out.

    I wouldn't bother with weaponry. If you are scared, the chances are better that the weapon will be used on you rather than you use the weapon. Or, in your anxiety you may overreact and hurt someone.
    I can understand (barely) carrying a *** around if you live in Southside Chicago.. but a small town? Not so much. Instead, work on your speed. Any 'hilly billy' isn't going to be able to catch you on that bike.

    I'd also suggest working on your anxiety. Find what causes it and work through the problem. It took me a few years and some medication and a little therapy (and learning to let go of my need to be in control at all times) but it can be done.

    Cars, you get used to cars. I ride in a downtown area most of the time. When I first started I was scared to leave the sidewalk. Now, after time, I can and do ride in traffic. The vast majority of drivers are decent types who don't want to hit you as much as you don't want to be hit. Just try to pick your roads carefully. So, instead of the local two lane highway, take an old logging road or a dirt road that isn't traveled much.

    I had a problem with a dog once, years ago. I kicked him on the nose and he ran off. I hear that a lot of bikers carry dog mace for dogs. So mace or a good sharp shoe?

    So, that's my advice. Work up to tackling what scares you slowly while working on the root cause of your anxiety. You can do it a step at a time. best of luck and welcome.
    Just one of those dirty pinko commies some people worry about.

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    Thank you katsrevenge your advice really is great and puts things in perspective; I appreciate the time you took to respond!

  16. #16
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misanthrope View Post
    Nonsense.

    If I say I'm anxious about X, and you say "Forget about X! You really also need to be really worried about Y." then you've totally failed to address my anxiety about X, and moreover probably increased my anxiety overall by telling me there's EVEN MORE STUFF TO WORRY ABOUT.

    Chrismorg did just that by presenting a solution to a "problem" which he had no reason to believe the OP was concerned with. She didn't express any worry about personal attack, nor mention the presence of any "hillbilly's" [sic] in the area. Had she done this then chrismorg's advice would have been reasonable whether one agreed with it or not.
    I see your point but I just don't feel that it is the way you see it. The way I was picturing it the OP has an issue with level of comfort. Sure the anxiety is still present in a more comfortable situation but it is far less. What can reduce the anxiety is "something" which gives comfort. What is that? Not sure. It could be feeling safe with a Monkey's Fist, or spray or whatever. If the OP was an experienced and licensed firearms holder then that could be the trick.

    However I do know this.... if someone is a nervous carryer then that's no good for anybody.

    I also don't feel that it was a "Don't worry about X...." situation. Maybe that's how you were taking the advice but it isn't how it was given. Well it's not how it was INTENDED anyways.

    So... what gives the OP comfort and reduces the anxiety? I still think all options are open for the OP to consider. If she eliminates options that that's up for her. If she wants to explore any of the options given then that is for further discussion.
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    Thank you for your response!

  18. #18
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by katsrevenge View Post
    As a fellow female rider who has suffered from anxiety in the past....

    I'm thinking that it isn't so much a worry of being attacked as it is a worry that 'something' bad will happen while you are out there by yourself?

    I get that way sometimes. What I do, if I'm going to be in a shady area alone, is carry an old flip phone that only calls 911 (and has a battery that never dies). That way I always have a voice out.

    I wouldn't bother with weaponry. If you are scared, the chances are better that the weapon will be used on you rather than you use the weapon. Or, in your anxiety you may overreact and hurt someone.
    I can understand (barely) carrying a *** around if you live in Southside Chicago.. but a small town? Not so much. Instead, work on your speed. Any 'hilly billy' isn't going to be able to catch you on that bike.

    I'd also suggest working on your anxiety. Find what causes it and work through the problem. It took me a few years and some medication and a little therapy (and learning to let go of my need to be in control at all times) but it can be done.

    Cars, you get used to cars. I ride in a downtown area most of the time. When I first started I was scared to leave the sidewalk. Now, after time, I can and do ride in traffic. The vast majority of drivers are decent types who don't want to hit you as much as you don't want to be hit. Just try to pick your roads carefully. So, instead of the local two lane highway, take an old logging road or a dirt road that isn't traveled much.

    I had a problem with a dog once, years ago. I kicked him on the nose and he ran off. I hear that a lot of bikers carry dog mace for dogs. So mace or a good sharp shoe?

    So, that's my advice. Work up to tackling what scares you slowly while working on the root cause of your anxiety. You can do it a step at a time. best of luck and welcome.
    Great words.

    Root cause is always the main objective and secondary is "dealing with it" until it can be reduced or goes away.

    In addition to working on your speed I would also suggest working on your bike control. Biking in figure eights slowly so you get used to turning tight corners without falling (I'm horrible at this), going up and over curbs, and so on.

    As far as kicking a dog/person or anything else, it doesn't matter what you inflict pain with, just be able to use it. Many use the baton option, or other "whatever". I choose to carry a monkey's fist (as I've mentioned a few times) and I have a small firearm available to me. My preference is to use the monkey's fist but it requires you take a hand off the handlebar. Using your foot requires that you stop (or severely slow down) pedaling. Choose your method, or combine several.
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    This may sound silly, but it isn't meant to be that way. Because you're worried about getting hit, a valid concern IHMO, get a rear-view mirror if you're not using one now. I use them on both of my bikes, and having the information about what's transpiring behind me, at a glance, makes me feel a little more secure.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrismorg View Post
    carry a firearm in a front bar mounted bike bag not a lot of hillbilly's mess with girls with guns
    To this add a spray bottle of pure ammonia to spray in animal/attackers eyes to stop them.
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  21. #21
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    This has already been said, but part of riding a bike on the road is you could get hit. I have been riding so long I simply block it out of mind. If you have a fear of being run down, you might take solace that it is rare and there is usually nothing you can do to stop it anyway. I know hundreds of riders, and only one (a close friend) was run down from behind and it was tragic, but I still don't think about it when I ride, because riding is what I like to do. Certainly you can take some precautions, I can hit a golf ball off the road with with an extended ZÚfal frame pump (highly advised) and I do have a concealed carry license (beware many states do not allow open carry of loaded *******s if if you have a cc license). OC Pepper spray also works on both dogs and humans. I think of Matthew 6-27 "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?". Regardless, if you are a Christian or not it makes sense.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by doctor j View Post
    This may sound silly, but it isn't meant to be that way. Because you're worried about getting hit, a valid concern IHMO, get a rear-view mirror if you're not using one now. I use them on both of my bikes, and having the information about what's transpiring behind me, at a glance, makes me feel a little more secure.
    I'm going to be heading out to some low use country roads in another month and have been thinking about a mirror. I'd need one that can handle some abuse as my helmet gets thrown around a bit.

    Good suggestion!
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    Senior Member Dave Cutter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jencyclist70 View Post
    .... I live in a small town, lots of country roads to bike on - which is great, but I have extreme anxiety over going out there by myself to bike. I can bike around town no problem, but I prefer to get longer rides in and the only way to do that is to hit the country roads. I am nervous about getting hit, dogs chasing me, etc.. I have had a few problems over the years, rude comments by stupid teenagers, some dogs, and once almost got hit by a truck. I suffer from anxiety already which doesn't help.
    From what I've read here at the forums... it seems lots of cyclists have some anxiety issues. Of course.... you mentioned you suffer from anxiety so I will assume you are seeking medical help with this condition... and good for you for doing so. I think far too many people with this condition fail to seek the help they need. People often just blame outside influences (like cars or motorist) and fail to get help with their medical condition.

    Bicycling is an excellent exercise and cycling does help promote general health... which can't hurt. But you should discuss anxiety "treatments" with your doctor. He/She might recommend something with a little more "human contact"... like adult girls softball, bowling, or golfing. But keep cycling around town where you feel comfortable. As your anxiety pasts (and it will in time) then you can explore all you wish.
    Last edited by CbadRider; 04-09-14 at 09:09 AM. Reason: Removed gun comment

  24. #24
    covered in cat fur katsrevenge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WonderMonkey View Post
    Great words.

    Root cause is always the main objective and secondary is "dealing with it" until it can be reduced or goes away.

    In addition to working on your speed I would also suggest working on your bike control. Biking in figure eights slowly so you get used to turning tight corners without falling (I'm horrible at this), going up and over curbs, and so on.

    As far as kicking a dog/person or anything else, it doesn't matter what you inflict pain with, just be able to use it. Many use the baton option, or other "whatever". I choose to carry a monkey's fist (as I've mentioned a few times) and I have a small firearm available to me. My preference is to use the monkey's fist but it requires you take a hand off the handlebar. Using your foot requires that you stop (or severely slow down) pedaling. Choose your method, or combine several.
    Thanks.

    In my case I didn't slow, I just swung my foot out. Yip! Yip! Yip! Dratted dog.
    Slowing could be said of most weapons. I wouldn't want to try to aim mace or something at even my cruiser's slower pace.

    As far as fire arms go.. most woman's self defense experts tell you to leave them at home. If women carry weapons, it should be something not so obvious. Like the kitty. Way too often a scared person will hesitate, or in the case of a smaller body, be overpowered. So, the idea is to balance perceived safety with actual safety.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cutter View Post
    From what I've read here at the forums... it seems lots of cyclists have some anxiety issues. Of course.... you mentioned you suffer from anxiety so I will assume you are seeking medical help with this condition... and good for you for doing so. I think far too many people with this condition fail to seek the help they need. People often just blame outside influences (like cars or motorist) and fail to get help with their medical condition.

    Bicycling is an excellent exercise and cycling does help promote general health... which can't hurt. But you should discuss anxiety "treatments" with your doctor. He/She might recommend something with a little more "human contact"... like adult girls softball, bowling, or golfing. But keep cycling around town where you feel comfortable. As your anxiety pasts (and it will in time) then you can explore all you wish.
    Last edited by CbadRider; 04-09-14 at 09:15 AM. Reason: Removed gun comments
    Just one of those dirty pinko commies some people worry about.

  25. #25
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    One not mentioned here is lights. If your in a small town area chances are there is minimal lighting on any roads be they rural or main so going out early or late is not wise without lighting. I leave 4:30 every Saturday for a job and I can't tell you how many women I have passed with no lights or colored clothing just headphones, very stupid. I have lots of lighting. Two Sefas Superbrights on the back and two Nightrider lights on the front. With this setup everybody moves away and knows I am coming or going and I can see in complete darkness....

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