I’m a clumsy person. Not very much coordination. So throw a bike into the mix and it gets ugly. I’ve never been much of a bike rider. Even as a little girl I was afraid of my bike. Or maybe I was just afraid of falling. Either way it was scary. And it’s still scary.
I don’t think I learned how to ride a bike until I was around 10 years old maybe. I was fine with training wheels but when my dad tried to teach me on a big girl bike, I fell into the bushes a couple of times, cried, and gave up. Finally, I had my Papaw help me with the bike and felt a little more at ease. Then one day after feeling left out because all my friends would ride around on their bikes after school, I decided to conquer my fear of riding a bike. Just me and my big girl bike and you know what happened? I rode my bike. I didn’t fall and I didn’t cry. What was I so freaked out about before? This was a piece of cake. Only took me 10 years, but better late then never.
I was a biking machine afterwards. I rode my bike after school with my friends, I biked to town, and even biked to school a few times. I got so good that I could ride my bike without hands. Go figure. Once I got into high school, I hardly rode my bike because of course there were a lot cooler modes of transportation, like cars. Once in college, my bike days were history.
I didn’t ride a bike again until Bryan and I went to L.A. for a mini vacay and we took beach cruisers out on the coast. I was a little hesitant because I had not been on a bike since probably 1998 and it was 2009….11 years later. Yes it was a cute little beach cruiser, but that thing was heavy! And plus I was wearing sandals so I felt a little uneasy. Bryan jumped on his bike and took off. I almost fell over and started to panic thinking I wouldn’t be able to ride this bike. Bryan was like it’s easy, you’ll remember, it’s just like riding a bike! Ummmm no. I’m the most awkward person on a bike. After about twenty minutes of arguing at each other and Bryan perplexed as to why I was so bad at riding a bike, I finally figured it out. And we biked form Playa Del Ray to Venice Beach for lunch and then biked back.
I didn’t ride a bike again until about 9 months later. Bryan was living in an apartment on the monon at that point and he was really getting into cycling and triathlons and had bought a road bike. We thought it would be fun to ride bikes to Broadripple and such so he bought me a used Fiji hybrid. It was teal and perfect. Not too intimidating. Just the starter bike that I needed to get into the swing of things. We rode our bikes from the Fair Grounds to Broadripple and Downtown on the weekends. I really enjoyed it until we went on vacation and on our return noticed my bike was stolen, the bike lock wire had been cut. I was super bummed. Just when I was finally starting to really like biking.
As an early birthday present Bryan bought me a new Trek Hybrid in the Fall of 2010. I named her Giselle. She was turquoise and beautiful. I love her and still have her to this day. Summer was over and I was back in Bloomington for optometry school, obviously I took my Trek with me. So for my first real ride, I rode the second day of the Hilly Hundred, 40ish miles (the short course). Bryan had ridden 50 miles the day before with his bike friends and would be riding the second 50 miles the following day. I knew I would be riding by myself, but I didn’t mind. I brought my smart phone and listened to Pandora while cruising along. I loved the Hilly Hundred. There were three stops along the course. The first stop had coffee, water, donuts, bagels, all the carb friendly breakfast essentials for a long day. The second stop was lunch. Bryan was way ahead of me at this point so I picked a spot on the grass and had a solo picnic. The third stop (I think there was third stop) had water, apples etc. I ended up passing Bryan on the course because he had two flat tires in a row. The first part of the course was easy breezy. I rode at a leisurely pace. Although I was a little scared speeding down hills so I put the breaks on a little. The last ten miles were all up and down hills. Okay this wasn’t fun anymore, was it over yet?! I struggled up those hills. My little legs had never ridden this long before on a bike let alone hills. But I made it slowly but surely. There was one final hill towards the end of the course and people were walking their bikes up the hill it was so steep. I tried to bike for as long as I could but halfway up the hill it was like I was biking in place and not moving forward. So I put up my white flag and walked the rest of the way up the hill. I ended up finishing before Bryan and his friends due to his flat tires but only by a few minutes. My legs felt like jello and I was starving! I couldn’t imagine having ridden the full 100 miles.
After the Hilly Hundred, I continued to ride my bike a few days week around Bloomington as a workout. I would ride for about 10 miles at a time. Nowhere near the Hilly Hundred distance, but I was content with that. Once I moved back to Indy, Bryan and I lived downtown near the Monon, so we would go on leisurely rides to Broadripple for brunch. In the winter I put my bike on the bike trainer to get in some miles, nothing crazy though. We even took my bike to D.C. so I could ride around the Marine Corps Marathon course while Bryan ran.
Finally I graduated from leisurely rides to participating in a duathlon in May 2013. Check out my duathlon race report. I did it more for fun to see if this was something that I wanted to pursue. It would have been pleasant if it weren’t for the 40 degree weather in May. However, I successfully completed my first duathlon without falling or crashing on my bike. The following August, I competed in my first sprint triathlon. Again it was more to see if this was something that I would enjoy and would want to start racing regularly. I used my hybrid Trek and she served her purpose. But it was a little frustrating pedaling harder and not going as fast as people on road and tri bikes. But I instantly loved the torture of the triathlon, so Bryan bought me a Quintana Roo tri bike the following month. There were a few naysayers saying that I should have bought a road bike first, but I wanted a tri bike. Go big or go home right?
I rode Quinn around downtown and Broadipple two or three times when I first got her (note I did fall into a stop sign while stopping and into a wall at our apartment). It took me having a beer at Twenty Tap before I was brave enough to get into arrow position on the bars. But after that I only rode her on the bike trainer twice a week during marathon training So two weeks ago, I decided to take her out for spin to try to use my cycling shoes clipped into the pedals. I used my cycling shoes and pedals on the bike trainer but using in real life on the road terrified me. I literally broke out in hives before I practiced because I was so scared.
Bryan was on his tri bike and my sister was riding my Trek. The monon wasn’t very crowded so I didn’t have to worry about crashing into people. Bryan demonstrated getting into the pedals and dismounting a few times but then it was my turn. I mounted okay but then when it was time to stop, I panicked and fell over and crashed. Insert crying here. I immediately yelled at Bryan “Why didn’t you catch me?!?!?!” He helped me up and I started crying…in public…on the monon….did I mention I’m 30? So he said try again, it will take a few times. My knee was all banged up and bleeding but the fall didn’t hurt that much, it was mainly my pride that was hurting. Okay so now going the other direction. Mounted okay again and pedaling just fine, but now time to stop again. This time I tried to stop with the other foot. Nope. Fail. Crash. This time I fell even harder. Second knee banged up and bleeding now. I was literally stuck under my bike crying….again. Some lady rode past clipped into her pedals and was like “awww, it takes time to learn to clip in.” I wanted to punch her in the face. Again the fall itself didn’t hurt as much as my ego did. Now I know what it’s like to fall, so it shouldn’t be so scary now, not so much.
At this point I wanted to give up. It was hopeless. My clumsy self is never going to figure this out. I needed to practice stopping and dismounting in regular shoes first before being clipped to the pedals. But I had to ride back to the house which means I had to stop again in my cycling shoes. Damnit! At this point I was in a complete temper tantrum. I had reverted to my 10 year old self trying to learn how to ride a bike for the first time. “I hate this! I don’t want to do this!” And what do you know? When I stopped in front of our house I didn’t fall. It wasn’t graceful but I stopped and dismounted without falling. But my mind was already set, I wanted to put on my running shoes.
Once my running shoes were on, Bryan had me work on a drill of coasting on the bike without sitting and just gliding with one foot on the pedal and the other foot free. And then I switched and did that with the other foot. It worked like magic. It’s like my mind needed this little drill to figure out how to stop on my bike. We rode our bikes for a mile or two on the monon practicing stopping and I was fine. That Sunday Bryan was out of town for a triathlon so my sister and I rode from SoBro to Carmel and back for a total of 23 miles. I rode Quinn and Cassie rode Giselle. I wore my running shoes….whomp whomp. But the goal was for me to get comfortable riding the bike itself and to also get used to stopping. We had to stop a lot because the monon was packed with people at the art fair in Broadripple and in Carmel there were just a lot of people out and about. I practiced shifting a little but still felt a little wobbly so I decided against getting into the arrow bars for now. I envisioned myself flattened on the monon and only having my sister to help. But it was a successful ride nonetheless. I didn’t fall and felt fine starting and stopping. We celebrated by getting ice cream once back in Broadripple.
It was also beneficial because I wore our new triathlon team uniform to break it in before my first race of the season.
I rode my bike last night only for about 2 miles just to the bike shop and back to get my new tires put on Quinn. Again I was a little wobbly at first but then was fine (still wearing my running shoes). I even shifted and had one arm in arrow position. It’s the little victories. Speed up to present day, now here I am a few days out from my first sprint triathlon of the season (my 2nd sprint triathlon ever). Bryan and I discussed my game plan and for this first triathlon I’m going to ride in my running shoes just so I’m comfortable and get the hang of things. For my second triathlon two weeks later, I’m going to clip in. And for my third triathlon two weeks after that, I will be clipped in and in arrow position. Baby steps. So hopefully by August I’ll be a pro. Here’s hoping to no falls or crashes this weekend at my sprint tri and that I’ve finally overcome the scared little girl inside me that is afraid of riding bikes.