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Athlete's Corner
Women in Cycling

Patricia McNeal Shares Tips for Cyclists Considering a Cross Country Ride

By: Page Heller  October 06, 2020

Patricia McNeal, a 59-year-old avid cyclist, shares her story and tips for those considering a cross-country ride.

Patricia McNeal just celebrated her 59th birthday this past Sunday, and to celebrate she went for a huge ride! She has taken multiple rides all over the United States, and is already planning another ride this spring from Portland, Maine to Keywest, Florida, and eventually a ride across the world.

We had the opportunity to chat with Patricia and ask her about her cycling history, her cross-country experience, and tips she would recommend to those wanting to do a cross country ride!

Patricia McNeal says that cycling truly saved her life. She did not grow up biking, and only recently started really getting into the sport. She suffered a stroke in 2013 but used the setback as inspiration to live a healthier lifestyle. For others that have faced health concerns, she says, "I hope they can overcome their difficulties, think positively, and try their best to better their lives."

Patricia's husband is a passionate cyclist, she says, "My husband is my inspiration to ride, he is why I started riding in the first place." Along with her physical activity, she decided to change her eating habits as well, and she adopted a vegan diet.

In 2018, Patricia took her first cross-country ride from her home in Panama City, Florida, to Los Angeles, California. Before starting off on her trip she was logging up to 100 miles a day on her Trek bike. She says, "I hope to inspire women to start biking!"

Patricia's tips for why to bike cross-country are:

  • "If you have ever considering biking cross-country, just go for it, it's a life-changing experience!"
  • "If you've ever wanted to see different parts of the country, riding cross-country on a bike is similar to driving a car, but on the bike, you are getting exercise, fresh air, and a different worldly experience."
  • "Cross-country trips help you grow as an individual."
  • "Be spontaneous and live life to the fullest!"
  • "If at first, you don't think you can do it, trust me, you can! I didn't believe I could do it at first, but now you can't get me off my bike!"

Patricia sold her car and now only commutes on her bike. She rides her bike about 50-100 miles every day, to get groceries, do laundry, go to the bank, and other routine shopping.

Patricia's tips for preparing for a cross-country bike ride are:

  • "I started riding 30-40 miles a day in Florida, where I live, and eventually was riding up to 100 miles before leaving for my trip."
  • "Get on your bike often and just keep pedaling!"
  • "Revel in the excitement and joy of being on your bike, this will make training more enjoyable. I rode 6-8 hours a day before my trip."
  • "Shift gears when you're going up a hill, I learned this the hard way."
  • "Bring clothes for all types of weather, as each state has different weather."

Patricia only brought with her a backpack to carry all of her necessities. Due to the weather being so different in each state and the weight of her backpack, she often had to send clothes back to her husband. Doing her cross-country rides solo, Patricia demonstrated courage and bravery. On her rides, she mostly sees groups of men doing trips and hopes to inspire more women to get on bikes. "I hope when women see me riding, they feel encouraged to ride too, whether that be two miles around their neighborhoods, or going on a cross-country trip like me!"

Patricia has always had a fear of bridges, and her trip helped her overcome this fear. "I remember I was coming up to this bridge, it was 200 feet up, and I was crying. I had a phobia of getting to the bridge." From completing a cross-country trip, you can gain valuable self-reflection, improvement, and growth.

Patricia's tips for when you are on your ride:

  • "Don't compare yourself to anyone. I'm not the fastest cyclist, and my motto is 'I'm built for comfort, not speed.'"
  • "Being a vegan, it was difficult to find places to eat on the road, but it is doable!"
  • "People on the road were very helpful, I enjoy striking up conversations with them, it serves as inspiration!"
  • "Carry a paper map, don't listen to Siri! I got way off course listening to Siri."

After her 2018 cross-country journey, McNeal founded the nonprofit Heels on Wheels, with a mission to inspire other women to take up cycling. She is excited about her upcoming trips that serve as her inspiration every day to keep pedaling!