This week’s goal – learning how to ride a bike!
Achievement of the week – I rode my first 15 miles this Sunday. But it wasn’t as simple as that may sound…. here is how it went…
So this Saturday, we had our official first training of the season. It was to be 20 miles down the 9W. As you know, I don’t know the first thing about riding, (riding on the road – is another story), so I was freaking out at the very idea. I had picked up my bike fully assembled on Friday night at 8 pm, with all the accessories, bottle holder, blinkers, flat fixing pouch, and so on. I was extremely excited and at the same time, very very nervous.
Any case, come Saturday, my coach (Harlan) picked me up at 7.40 am, and we went down to the starting area at Strictly Bicycles at Fort Lee. All the riders were there, in fact, there were riders from other teams as well. And everyone looked like a super pro. They had all the cool gear, expensive bikes, and most importantly the confidence to ride those bikes on the road.
After sending off the rest of the team on their big ride, my coach and I went to a nearby park. I needed a safe environment to ride and “fall” with my new bike, and cleats (yes! cleats & clipless pedals). We started with one foot clipped in and one foot out of the clip. First, I learnt how to glide with one foot clipped in – and managed to fall while doing this (while standing in the same spot). Then I learnt how to clip in one foot, and then place the other foot on the pedal. And finally I learnt how to ride… (basic steps)
After the initial riding, I learnt how to change gears, which wasn’t so bad. My bike has gears on both sides (about 24 gears in total). The easier gears are used to ride uphill, and the harder gears are used to ride downhill. Using gears, helps in controlling the bike. I practiced the gears for a bit, and then we tried a tiny hill.
To ride the tiny hill, we took a small path that led up to it. My coach told me to focus my gaze on where I should go, and not look where I didn’t want t go. Nevertheless, I did exactly what he told me not to do, and had a really bad fall. Again, because I was clipped in, I was stuck under the bike. That hurt, and gave me what bikers call “warrior marks” (or so I was told to make me feel better).
After a few shots at this, we tried to ride in the paths of the park – rather unsuccessfully. I was tired, and my freak out interval was shorter. So with people, children and dogs in the park and on the paths, I wasn’t doing well. More importantly, every time I braked, I slammed my body on the rod, which hurt like crazy. My coach (bless him) was very patient with me through the entire process….
Armed with this knowledge, and the practice, I met another cyclist (Heather) who is my unofficial mentor for a ride in the park on Sunday (at 6 am). We rode on the streets (which was the first time for me) to get to the park. After this, we actually did 1.5 loops (about 10 miles) without me clipping in, which was a nonevent.
Finally, we decided that I should clip in. At this time, Jim (Heather’s mentor) had joined us. Both Jim and Heather, rode ahead of me or on either side of me as I practiced. Jim also rode alongside with me while I was on the Harlem hill, giving me pep talk the entire way. Eventually, I finished the last loop while clipped in. This has been my first achievement (couldn’t have done it without Jim and Heather). Not only did I do my first 15 miles, but I did 6 of those miles clipped in!!
Next goal – learn to use my abs while riding, so I can take my hands off the handle if I need to. (tip from Susanne*)
PS. Didn’t mention my terrible fall. After I finished the loop, we stopped, and while taking off, I lost my balance and fell on the curb. That hurt so bad, another cyclist also stopped to help me up! Have a terrible mark on my hip where I hit the curb. Today, been very sore all day, with black-blue marks on both my legs.. but I feel great, I did something that was so hard for me, and I did it well.
*Met Susanne… Jim’s wife – she gave me some great tips… more on this later…