'So, do you have a bike?"
These were some of the words uttered in my direction on my first day as the Colorado Daily's outdoor recreation reporter.
My boss, the former outdoors reporter, put out an SOS for a bike to borrow for a poor, recent college graduate -- until I could afford one of my own, or decide (gasp!) if I even liked cycling.
A pal (and president of Boulder's Growth Cycle) Ray Keener stepped to the rescue with a deep purple VooDoo mountain bike. He made me test it in my first-week-of-work, business-casual attire and promptly sent embarrassing photos of me in my dress slacks astride the bike to the Interwebs.
That weekend, I learned how to take off the front wheel (please don't stop reading), loaded the two pieces safely in the trunk of my tiny Honda and headed to the South Boulder Trails with my trusty and incredibly fear-resistant boyfriend.
We parked in Superior and decided to try the Meadowlark and Coalton Trails, described as "moderately" difficult in my shiny new guidebook.
For the first 10 minutes or so, me and the purple VooDoo flew. Picture Aladdin and Jasmine on the magic carpet singing "A Whole New World" plus some crunchy gravel and sweaty helmet head.
We paused at the Coalton Trailhead, which sits at the bottom of a steep hill just off McCaslin Blvd, where a group of cyclists wearing spandex shorts and team jerseys were saying stuff that to me sounded like this:
"Oh, hello. Yes, this week I rode an easy 9,000 miles. Time for a fun ride!"
We decided to let the pack of real cyclists go ahead. I was terrified. It was probably a molehill, but to me it may as well have been K2 in a blizzard.
For a while I assumed brute force would push me forward, but I stopped after each small burst of furious pedaling, out of breath and not much closer to the top.
My valiant riding partner pushed ahead, stopping to look back at me while trying to hide a grin.
I ignored this and paused to chat with a plump-though-dapper prairie dog. He said stuff that to me sounded like this:
"Oh, hello. You look . . . purple. Are you from sea level?"
When he got bored and scampered away, I pushed on.
Calmly, after seeing me struggle long enough, Wil offered a piece of advice that made all the difference: Concentrate on pedaling at a consistent speed at all times, and accept that going slower while pedaling uphill is OK.
Once I found a good rhythm for my legs, my bike moved at a slow, but consistent, pace up the slope.
It had been that easy the whole time. Perhaps I would learn how to live as the Boulderites do, in time.
When we reached the top, we discussed whether or not it was wise to tackle the entire 20-mile loop on our first trip out. Probably not.
We turned around, breathing easy as we passed the chattering prairie dogs, and headed for home and ice cream.
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.