It’s like riding a bike …

Uh, that saying is so misleading.

Riding a bike is so not like riding a bike. If you know what I mean.

Quick background: I was one with my bike as a kid. Rode it for fun even, not exercise. Got a Schwinn in 8th grade. Stopped riding sometime around high school. Dug it out of my parents’ garage after college and gave it a go a few times, only to see the chain all rusted out and stuff. Tried to sell it for $20 in a yard sale, donated it to Goodwill after no one would buy it.

Fastforward to my discovery of exercise: Decided it would be really cool to have a bike. Borrowed my sister-in-law’s mountain bike. Barely rode it due to the fact that I do not have a helmet and I did not trust myself without one. Borrowed Jeff’s helmet. Went riding with Kevin. Was shaky at first but soon started loving it. Of course, I was road biking on a mountain bike, riding a bike that wasn’t suited for me. But was looking foward to getting one of my own someday. Haven’t ridden since end of July (I was out of town the entire month of August, marathon training in September and didn’t bother to hop on it on cross-training days)

I’ve already told you about my new bike. This past Sunday, I was to ride it for the first time. I was super-nervous about using clipless pedals for the first time on a “real” bike (have used them in spin class.) For those who don’t know, clipless pedals are basically like this: hole in the pedal. Extra piece on the bike shoe. Piece on shoe fits inside hole in pedal, making you attach your foot to your pedal. I know from using them in spin class that these are a wonderful, wonderful thing to have. They make your legs one with your bike. They allow you to work harder, better, go faster. They also make it really, really scary to think about stopping and getting off the bike without falling, at least from my POV (my POV being someone that’s never done it before on a non-stationary bike.)

I decided to ride in Kevin’s neighborhood. It’s safe without a ton of cars, and I don’t have to fall in front of my neighbors. He asked how long I wanted to go riding and I stupidly said an hour (that’s how long cross-training workouts are supposed to last on my marathon training program). What I didn’t think about was all the “bike stuff” we had to do first. Pump the tires. Adjust the seat height. Adjust the seat forwardness. And then I had to actually get on the bike.

You’d think it’d be easy, right? I was riding all over the place just a few months ago using the borrowed bike! But when I got on my new bike I realized the brakes were in a different place. Meaning I’d have to adjust my position to be more aerodynamic. Meaning I felt weird.

This is way before the clips on the shoes came into play. Kevin suggested smartly that we take it for a spin without clipping in first, just so I could get used to the bike. So I spent the next 20 minutes almost getting on it, and psyching myself out. I realized my biggest problem: I am so scared of falling.

Once I finally got on the bike and started moving, it was not nearly as scary as when I was messing with it standing still. And I knew that before I got on, I was just being a chicken. So we rode a loop around his neighborhood (a little less than a mile) and it wasn’t so bad. But wow, my arms were in a different place and I was gripping the handlebars so tightly I figured I’d have sore arms over sore legs on this one!

When we got back to his house we decided to try the bike shoes. Only, the clips didn’t fit (I had the clips and shoes for a few years – for spin class. Jeff tried to get the pedals to match the shoes, but the bike store guys were wrong about which pedals I needed.) I was secretly relieved. So we took it for another spin, a little more than 2 miles this time, and things were even better! Kevin suggested another handlebar position I might like and he was right. Much less weird.

After we got back to Kevin’s house and I practiced getting on and off the bike. Mia, my 3-year-old niece, even came outside to offer some advice: “Just put your bottom on the seat, Missa!”

The way I dismount currently is a problem. It goes like this: Both feet off the pedals. Stretch my legs as far out as I can and touch my tip toes to the ground. Then scoot my butt off. This has led to a foot cramp on more than one occasion and is not comfortable. And Kevin pointed out that I would not be able to do this with clipless pedals; that I would fall. So I better practice how to take one foot off the pedal, come to a stop, and get my butt off the bike and put the free foot on the ground. Then unclip the second foot.

He decided to show me this method of getting off the bike without falling. He pulled his foot out of the pedal, stopped, put his foot down – and then promptly fell off the bike.

I so thought he did it on purpose as a demonstration at first! But nope, he was concentrating so hard on giving me directions, and not just doing what comes naturally to him, that he tumbled right off! I a) asked if he was ok, and b)  laughed. In that order. I promise.

The good thing is it didn’t look that painful. So I think I would survive if that happened to me. He may have helped me work on that fear of falling.

Of course I had to text Jenny later and say, “Kevin fell off the bike showing me how to not fall off the bike!”

Kev, you’re the best brother ever. (And happy birthday!)

Read his account of falling here.