My first biking memory is being excited that my mom gave me a brand new red ten speed. As I passed the police station on my first ride, I crashed straight into a red brick sign and destroyed the handle bars.
It wasn’t dissimilar from many other experiences falling on my head in gymnastics, several trips to the emergency room, and tearing a ligament jumping over an NYC puddle in 4 inch wedges.
I ALWAYS get back up - and for the most part laugh it off. Falls are both physical and mental. It is how you deal with them.
Here is what I learned about myself as an adult re-learning how to ride a bike with the clip-on shoes my boyfriend bought me promptly after I got my new Trek road bike.
It was time for my first bike ride with the new shoes to go over to his place in Astoria after work one day.
Area To Improve #1: Take Your Time
Of course I wanted to get there as quickly as possible or I may decide to take an Uber vs take on this challenge. I rushed to attach the cleats to my shoes.
Area To Improve #2: Ask For Help
If I took the time to ask for help at the bike shop that was on the way, I could have saved myself from a few bruises that day.
I walked my bike across the street to face the right direction and fell sideways literally within a few pedals.
A nice couple helps pull me up while my feet were still stuck to the pedals. When I am upright, I explain to them that it is my first time trying these shoes. We share a laugh as they had experience biking and proceed with guidance for ‘twisting’ out of the pedal before they set me free for the rest of the ride.
Area To Improve #3: Practice
I admit. I failed to listen to the guidance to practice. I only tried to remove my feet a handful of times. Apparently, that wasn’t enough. I was just ready to get going, so I did.
Strength #1: Open To New Adventures
On the side of strengths, I am not afraid to new adventures. I took on a new challenge even though I was scared.
I continue across Midtown with no issue until I had to stop at a red light on 8th Ave and 50th street. I gracefully fall over to the side promptly after I stopped.
The gentlemen on his bike next to me reaches his hand over to try to help me up unsuccessfully since I am glued to the pedals.
Another couple step in to help; however, when I tell them it is my first time using clip-on shoes, they just think I am crazy to learn in NYC rush hour.
Strength #2: Authenticity And Grace Defeats Judgement
I confirmed during the bike ride that I am definitely okay with being authentic - not phased by others judgement. I truly looked silly each time I fell. I could have been embarrassed, concerned, or afraid to let others help me.
Strength #3: Plan B
I realize that I should be a bit more careful and could potentially hurt myself. I decide to leave one foot unclipped so I can put it down - and not fall. My plan b was successful for the rest of the bike ride across Midtown, along 2nd Avenue, over the Queensboro bridge and through Queens.
I was excited and relieved to arrive at my destination - frustrated, annoyed, and felt silly for having so much difficulty. On top of it all, I had to get back on the stupid bike in the morning before work and do it all over again.
After I share my horror story with my boyfriend and he looks at my shoes, I learn that I didn’t attach the cleats tightly enough so they just swiveled. Next time I try something new, I need to take my time, ask for help, and practice. Perhaps, then I will have a better first time experience.
Strength #4: Get Back On Your Feet
While I could have decided to ditch the whole effort after the first fall outside my apartment, a few bruises won’t stop me towards a goal.
I got back on my bike and rode the next morning with my boyfriend into the city. Even with my cleats on tight with his help, I continued to take a couple more falls that same week.
The scariest was the time I fell under a truck next to Central Park. Luckily, I got one foot out in time to get up on my own - with a doozy of a bruise on my bum.
That was one of several bruises that first week weaving in and out of traffic in the city. I was able to use the ‘roadkill’ bruises on my legs as an icebreaker in a product roadmap presentation.
Practice Pays Off
I am pleased to report that my continued practice has paid off. I successfully finished a century ride one month after I got the bike with only one fall. I still need to practice changing gears before tackling a big hill.
I rode across Iowa during Ragbrai last year which was over 400 miles in 6 days. No falls.
Finally, I completed the Timberman 70.3 half Ironman a few weeks later the summer of 2014. And, lucky for me, I didn’t fall or get a flat tire because I need to learn and practice how to change a tire. A race is NOT a time you can ask for help.
Thanks to my bike ride, I learned and confirmed some valuable things about myself.
The Pukka Panda