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When Lillie Rumpf and her husband Alain read our story about how to continue cycling during pregnancy, they were inspired to reach out and share Lillie’s story. Lillie, like many women, has chosen to ride with baby on board. And in doing so, Lillie has learned that pregnant pedalling comes with some perks. She shares them with all you in her story below.
Riding a bike while pregnant is awesome!
I never thought those words could come out of my mouth. We often think that pregnancy and sport are like oil and vinegar -they just don’t mix. I’m well into my fifth month of pregnancy, and I’ve learned that nothing could be further from the truth. Riding my bike while pregnant hasn’t just been possible –it’s been a delicious experience. I am dreading the day that I have to hang up my road bike for the season. Until then, I will continue to soak up every simple pleasure that pregnant riding has given me.
I’ve come to realize that my aspirations to accomplish big riding achievements do not necessarily need to be temporarily restricted, they simply need to be taken down a notch or two. Can I ride an epic Swiss 200 kilometre tour in a single day? Well, probably not, unless I want to ride into the night at “pregnancy pace.” But can I climb Mont Ventoux when I, by chance, happen to be spending a few days in southern France? Abso-freakin-lutely!
Climbing is in my genes, and in my husband, Alain’s, too. So we decided to ride, the three of us, to the top of the Giant of Provence starting from the ‘easy’ side in Sault.
Alain is training for the Transcontinental Race this summer in addition to studying for his MBA and starting a new job. This means his training schedule is quite tight, and spending all day riding at pregnancy pace is typically not high on his priority list. But this weekend was different. We were on mini-vacation. So we spent two days riding as a family -laughing, taking pictures, and discovering this beautiful part of the world together.
I think Alain was shocked, as often I am too, by how much I can still do. Since I never stopped doing sport, my base fitness is still very much there, in the shadows, ready to attack at any moment. Riding at slower pace means I can ride almost tirelessly. And these rides were very different than the rides I normally do with my husband This time, Alain wasn’t yelling at me to push harder, which I admittedly love under difference circumstances as it gives me that extra boost to beat my best time. I wasn’t over-tired, and therefore wasn’t whining and bitching at him about having to stop every 10 minutes and re-trace our route on the same road so he could get the ultimate picture.
We must have stopped a dozen times for pictures heading up Mont Ventoux. And the whole time, we were laughing, chatting with passing cyclists, and enjoying every moment of the ambience of solidarity with hundreds of other riders: young, old, fit, unfit, racers, touring cyclist, all on their pilgrimage to the summit. When we finished the ride after a brilliant descent, I honestly wanted to do it all over again. But then again, there was ice cream calling in Bédoin.
Here’s what makes pregnant riding so awesome:
1. There’s no need to make excuses for being slow
You know when you are having a bad day on the bike? Maybe you’re too stressed or you haven’t had much training or your legs aren’t cooperating with the planned programme. Those days are usually full of excuses. We apologise when our friends have to wait for us at the top. We feel guilty, angry or frustrated for not performing at our max. It’s not much fun, is it?
When you’re pregnant there is no need to apologise for anything. You’re pregnant and you’re riding a bike. People think you’re a superhero!
You can ride as slow or fast as you want, and no one would dare complain about waiting up for the pregnant girl at the top of the hill. In fact, everyone encourages you, rides with you and chats with you. They will even give you extra bum pushes up hill (bum pushes up Mt. Ventoux will be neither confirmed nor denied).
I’ve spent more time riding and chatting with my close bike buddies while I’ve been pregnant than when I was not. Maybe they are just using me as an excuse to ride slow when they are not feeling up to race pace. Whatever the reason, it’s all good times.
2 Guilt free ice cream rides
I LOVE ICE CREAM. We are lucky to live near places filled with artisanal ice cream shops. I have been known to extend a ride by kilometres in search of the best ice cream shop. Stopping for ice cream twice on a ride is totally acceptable. In fact, it’s practically a requirement when riding in Italy. I have been known to eat ice cream before noon, after a balanced breakfast of course. And did all this before I was pregnant.
Now I have to admit, even with all the riding I was doing, I’d still feel a little guilty about all the ice cream I was eating. I’d think to myself: “if only I hadn’t had that extra ice cream stop, maybe I could lose that magic kilo to make me faster up my local climb.”
During pregnancy, the guilt is gone! I haven’t really changed my eating habits, which is to say, I’m not doing the whole ‘eating for two thing’, but now I know that if my body gains weight, it’s because it’s meant to. And as long as I’m riding my bike, I know my body is working as it should to process the calories it needs for both me and baby.
This means I keep my bum trim as my belly grows, with all the ice cream stops that I want. How great is that? I believe I tested no less than five difference ice cream shops in the three days I was in Provence. Given all the taste-tesing, I can confidently recommend caramel au beurre salé whilst visiting French ice cream shops.
3. Added stability
When I upgraded to my light carbon bike, I noticed immediately that my descent speeds had reduced. Being a lightweight rider on a light bike completely changed the bike handling. Before I was a roadie nut, I was a car nut. I used to compete, so I know a lot about traction and the physics of the optimal line. This has left me a bit frustrated by the lack of stability on my bike.
Admittedly, I do feel a slight panic being 64 kilograms and growing. I’m quickly closing in on my husband in weight. Normally weighing in at 56 kilograms, it’s relatively easy for me to climb mountains. Yes, going up Mont Ventoux was hard. I think it would have been hard at 56 kilograms. But since I’m pregnant, I don’t have to be fast (see point 1), so the weight going up doesn’t really matter.
But the weight going down is nothing short of amazing! Descents are absolutely awesome. I can accelerate like a race car. And cross winds, like we had at Mont Ventoux, no longer push me around like a rag doll. Who knew that a few extra kilos could make riding in difficult conditions easier? I have confidence in the bike that I never had before.
4. A seat with a view
Head down, breathing hard, delirious from effort, chasing the wheel in front -none of this is happening now. It’s physically impossible with the growing belly. Fortunately, I never cut my head tube, so I moved my handle bars as high as possible around month four. This way I don’t knee the baby with every rotation, and he no longer retaliates by kicking me in the bladder. Currently, I’m sitting up high and enjoying the new point of view -and it is truly takes my breath away.
5. A new appreciation for life
I don’t have any races coming up. No ultra sportive over gigantic mountain passes. No absolute necessity to ride. When I ride now, it’s because I love to ride. And as I ride for hours along the calm winding roads of the region where I live, surrounded by vibrant life, I can’t help but feel humbled.
Sometimes I’m on my bike, talking with Fausto (my huband’ss nickname for the little one), sharing with him all the wonders I see as I ride, and I can’t help but feel ecstatic. I am so lucky that I am healthy, luckier still that I can ride a bike, and sometimes all that gratitude makes me want to scream out: “thank you for this moment.”
We are given one chance on this planet, and I’m a firm believer in embracing this only opportunity. I refuse to let fear get in the way of doing one of the activities that gives me so much satisfaction. Riding keeps me healthy and happy, removes stress in my daily life, and allows me to be the best person, and therefore the best mother, that I can be.
Post-script from Lillie
I’ve finally had to retire the road bike at 23 weeks pregnant. I simply don’t fit anymore. But I can still ride my mountain bike, and I’m renting an e-bike to get me around town these next few months.
As this story is published on Ella, I’m on day two of a three-day “epic” hike in the Swiss Alps. In this case, ‘epic’ means anywhere between six and hours hours of hiking at pregnancy pace followed by four-star hotel evenings and spas.
I have to admit –this whole pregnancy thing is pretty sweet.
About the author:
Lillie Rumpf is an engineer from California working in the hydroelectric industry. She bought her first road bike in her early 20s because it was the most efficient way to get to work in car clogged Southern California. This speed and motorsport junkie never saw it coming – she fell in love with the bike on day one. Ever since, biking has been a key element in her life, whether it’s epic alpine ultra-sportives or easy ice cream rides with friends, she bikes anywhere from 5,000-10,000 kilometres yearly.
After moving to Switzerland, she met her husband, Alain Rumpf, at a velodrome. It was love at first sight (or so he says). She’s the silent editor and frequent model for Alain’s blog. Together, they want to encourage more people to cycle and share with the world just how much pleasure cycling gives them. Lillie also guides groups, especially women, once a week from a bike shop in Lausanne. She wants to encourage more women to cycle and show them how not to be intimidated by “the boys.” After many years in motorsport, she understands the frustrations of loving a sport that is disproportionately masculine and hopes that through positive role models women will flock to the sport.