I just finished riding my new Co-op Cycles ADV 3.1 Adventure Touring Bike up and down the block practicing starting and stopping. I’m 37 years old and I’m learning to ride again. I can climb slab, vertical, and overhung rock in the world of the steep, but I can’t ride a bike. Go figure! After wrecking my bike twice in the space of 10 blocks the day before yesterday and injuring my knee, elbow, wrist, hip, and ankle, I was totally dejected. I felt like an utter failure – so much so that I walked my bike the rest of the way back to my apartment without even attempting a third wreck. I called the Doc for a coaching moment, it was so bad! I couldn’t even ride a bike without wrecking! My dad gave me a good roasting about it, poking fun at me and getting a good laugh out of it (it was good to see him laugh, even though it was completely at my pride-exterminated expense), and my husband kept asking me, “Why are you falling off of your bike?” over and over and over again. I swore off biking forever…well, for a day, at least. Yesterday, I went out to the field to help my mom and she thanked me later for letting Dad make fun of me and taking it so well. What else could I do? I know my dad loves me and he found it humorous. I even chuckled at how hard he was laughing about it! Who needs an ego, anyway? I didn’t feel bad about my dad laughing at me, because to see him laugh was worth it, even at the time.
It took the edge off a little bit, because it forced my sense of humor and a different perspective on the whole thing. Yes, I’m 37 years old. Yes, I’m a rock climber. Yes, I’m learning to ride a bike again. Yes, I wrecked twice in the space of 10 blocks. Yes, I had to call my psychiatrist about it. And yes, I rode my bike up and down the block just now to practice starting and stopping without wrecking. Guess what? I didn’t wreck today! I know I should go for a longer ride than just up and down the block, but I don’t want to push my luck, and I don’t want to get distracted by the pressures of traffic or dogs or anything else while I’m successfully starting and stopping on my ADV 3.1. Let’s avoid any wrecks today and call it a success that I even got back on my bike! I kind of want to go ride it some more, though. I purposely, and with much focus and concentration, paid close attention to the best way for me to start and stop on that particular bike just now. Now that I’ve scraped it up, it’s no longer as big of an issue if I do wreck it again because I’ve “broken it in” (ie. it’s got some scrapes and scratches now) and I’ve got a free tune-up at REI coming up as soon as I ride it far enough or a long enough period of time has passed, whichever comes first. I’d rather it be the former and have my tune-up be something other than blowing the dust off of it.
So what was different today? Well, for one thing, I had different shoes on. I purposely put on my Five Ten Guide Tennies, which are super grippy and fit well. I felt a difference there. I also put on one of the nicest long-sleeve shirts I own. If I wrecked, I’d probably ruin one of my best and favorite shirts. I limited my riding to up and down the block, where I could easily manage any traffic from either direction. I purposely decided when I was going to start and stop as I rode up and down the block. I paid attention to what I was doing. I gave myself time and permission to learn how to ride again, and on this particular bike. Most importantly, I got back on the bike! I noticed that I have to give myself time to get my feet positioned by backpedalling and applying the brakes smoothly and gradually in order to slide my hips forward and stop comfortably and with good balance when I put my left foot down to stop. There’s also an ideal pedal position range for my right foot to start off again. The key is to position that pedal properly and carefully, and to hold the brakes on until the last possible second before I push down on that pedal with my right foot when starting off. I have to work on my balance. That will come with riding my bike more and more starting and stopping practice. Once I get those basics down, we’ll fiddle with grip positions and such, but not yet. Just the basics for now.