The #projectspring agenda item of becoming a
biker chick adept cyclist loomed out there a little dauntingly for many months. I definitely procrastinated that in favor of tackling other items that didn’t intimidate me so much first – I knew it was bad when I redesigned my website completely before commuting to work ONCE. While it was definitely productive procrastination, it’s taken a while to transition to a life (more) on two wheels.
Earlier this year, she was the only one riding my bike.
First, I forgave my bike for getting in a crash and making the last 6 miles of Kerrville so difficult and making me feel so horrible on the group ride in February. This sounds stupid, but I actually resented the actual bike for a while. I don’t remember exactly what day it was that I let it go, but I held that resentment for months. Getting evilbike fixed was the final mend of this rift, it never felt right after the crash and sure enough, some ball bearings were missing. Bicycle Sport Shop worked their magic and evilbike is as good (evil?) as new.
Second, I started tooling around the neighborhood on my cruiser. No plan, no pace goals, no garmin, no clipless pedals, just enjoying getting a little activity and being outside. 5 miles here, 3 miles there, nothing earth shattering, just the act of riding a bike again without being scared or angry or frustrated at it was healing.
Then, and this is important, I ACTUALLY LEARNED HOW TO RIDE A BIKE WITH CLIPLESS PEDALS THE RIGHT WAY. Yes, I’m shouting this. I cannot believe I spent 4 years without somehow figuring this out, or having someone I was riding with correct what I was doing.
What you’re supposed to do – unclip one pedal while riding, and while still barely in motion, shift your weight over to stand on the unclipped leg.
This guy is doin’ it right. Credit HERE.
What I was trying to do – unclip one pedal while almost stopped, and then keeping my crotch over the seat, somehow force my bike to shift to the unclipped leg (while the motion of unclipping actually sort of makes you want to go the other way at a standstill).
What I ended up doing after falling a few times – unclipping both feet wayyyy before I stopped and keeping my crotch over the seat, so which ever way I landed would be fine. Which looked a lot like this…
Stolen from somewhere on Pintrest….oops.
Once I learned this and practiced it a lot (like, spent 20 minutes riding around my block, unclipping at EVERY stop sign), and it felt decently natural, we started riding in traffic. Oddly enough, most of the fear I had was with the clipless pedals, and not the actual act of cycling. When I felt in control of that motion, the act of cycling went from something that always held a little/lot of fear for me to something that was super enjoyable. It was like a huge load being lifted off my shoulders.
While I’ll still maintain that going out to a country road with ~4 stops for a 40 mile ride (vs 4 stops for a 4 mile ride AT BEST around our neighborhood) is much better, I can’t do that every day. Now, I can easily do recovery rides or rides with short intervals starting from my house, the gym, work, or actually anywhere.
One thing that has ALWAYS bothered me is that 90% of the places I go on a daily basis are definitely within cycling distance. My job is 3 miles away from where I live, my gym is 1 mile away from work, and that’s the majority of my driving each week. The grocery, bars, restaurants, other stores that I frequent are also within cycling distance. However, the problems have always been a) being scared of riding in traffic, b) worrying about cycling back home after eating/drinking, and c) not having a way to transport shit for errands.
I decided that we needed to figure out b) and c) now that a) wasn’t really a thing anymore. Two weeks ago, I decided we were cycling to lunch. A little string backpack worked just fine to carry the few things I needed that didn’t fit in my short pockets, and cycling home on a full belly was just a little slower. Then, we got an invite to a brewery that was just a few miles away, and decided to ride there as well. The rule of thumb seems to be on par with driving a car safely – a few beers over a few hours? Fine. Especially when home was downhill!
After that test run, we decided to take the next step and commute to work. Doing things in the morning is not always my strong suit, but it just took getting on the bike and going… and realizing that it takes me only 10-ish more minutes to ride to work than drive. NBD. To bring everything I needed with me, I stuffed my little string backpack to the gills, but it was fine. The absolutely amazing mood enhancer of getting in about 20-25 mins of cycling and fresh air before work made me so friggin’ happy at work. Totally worth it.
It was so great, we decided to do it again that week, with a PM trip to the gym in the mix. Zliten wore his giant backpack, and said it wasn’t bad, but wanted a better solution. Also, I’m pretty sure that any time there’s an excuse to buy new gear, he’s going to take the opportunity. That’s just how it goes.
Last week, we bike commuted once, and found out about the dark side of cycling to work… unexpected rain. In the morning, it looked like it was going to be clear for us, and then, it POURED all afternoon. We had to hole up at work for a few extra minutes while it cleared up, and then race home before the next storm hit, getting extremely wet from puddles. The backup plan was to take the bus if we couldn’t find a decent 20 mins to get home, and I’m sure we’ll have to enact that plan someday, but so far, we’re 3 for 3 on successful commutes in 2 weeks.
Saturday was my first test on evilbike riding out of my comfort zone – from the gym with more than just Zliten on busy streets where I’d never been before. The choice to getting anywhere from there is crossing a freeway overpass, or riding on a very busy road. Not optimal. However, our friend Matt showed us a great little bike path that takes the rest of the ride from looking super sketchy to actually quite perfectly the way to get home from the gym. We wound our way down to our normal neighborhood route, stopped for a pizza and beer lunch break, and started back to the gym (where our Xterra was).
Then, the rain just DUMPED on us. The first time it was hilarious, the second time, there was so much water my contact flipped out. We called it and rode the half mile back to our house, and we were going to drive Matt and his bike home in the Prius… and then we realized both of our sets of keys were at the gym in the Xterra. D’oh! Only two bikes fit in the back, so I let them go and changed into dry clothes and did the Oiselle Dozen and some chores in lieu of the extra 5 miles.
Yesterday was our first test of really being able to live on two wheels… brunch and grocery shopping. We cycled down to a taco place and fueled up first, and then hit the grocery store with a fairly normal sized list. Luckily, everything totally fit in our new bike bag and basket. We probably could have squeezed a little more in if we had to, but let me tell you, 6-8 mph was about the top of my comfort zone on the way back uphill fully loaded. It was just fine for a nice afternoon 2.5 mile ride where pace didn’t matter at all.
Two things I have left on the “be a biker chick” list:
- Go on group rides. I’m planning to do my first Parmer brick with the team this week (third attempt – first one we bailed, second, it got rained out). After that gets comfortable (and I get a little fitter), I’d like to do some recovery rides and eventually some of the longer stuff with the cycle group.
- Get a tri bike. I should be just ecstatic at doing this one, but I think I still feel lost about what to get and maybe subconsciously like I still don’t deserve one somehow. Step #1 is going to be renting one for the race in 2 weeks. I’m hoping that’s an amazing experience and will make me want to find my forever TT bike like, yesterday.
#projectspring is still definitely in effect, so I still have time to conquer these last two, and get better at the rest.