So, there I was, new bicycle, all the required gear (and the cute
accessories of course), and a friend to show me the ropes, ready to
ride for the first time in 20 years. He gave me a quick overview of
what to expect, but made it sound like it was a walk in the park to
ride a bike with your feet attached to the pedals.
The plan was to ride the bike trail through town to get some
lunch. It was only a few miles and his candid attitude was
infectious. So imagine my surprise when the first turn we took
was a road that would make San Francisco proud, or at least that's
what it felt like. As I start up this monstrosity, I can hear the guy
at the bike store telling me "the chain falls off when people try to
change gears going uphill." So I power through this climb, huffing
and puffing, in a gear meant for going downhill. Thank goodness
it wasn't more than 50 yards to the top, but when I got there my
lungs were going to explode. The worst part was that they road
kept climbing, only gradually, but up none the less.
My friend was already at the top of the hill. I didn't want to seem
like the weak link, which of course I was anyway, so I pedaled my
heart out to catch up with him. He was waiting at the first
intersection we came to and I knew this was a busy street that we
were going to cross so there was no choice but to come to a stop.
Here it was, my first opportunity to unclip from my bike. I had
practiced (that one time in spin class) so I didn't think it would be
any big challenge. Boy, was I wrong. I started slowing,
concentrating on moving my right heel out, away from the bike
which would then cause the mechanism to let go. I thought about
adding the little extra pressure that I would require to disconnect.
And then it happened. Click. My right foot was disconnected! I
did it! I was so proud of myself! But then I realized I was falling to
the left! I desperately tried to disconnect my left foot in the two
seconds before I hit the ground, but I had no leverage. So there
was nothing I could do, but fall. It was mortifying and it all
happened in slow motion. I can only imagine how many people
driving by on that busy street went home to tell their loved ones
about the girl who fell ON, not off, her bicycle.
My friend seemed sympathetic and coached me up off the ground
as I checked my wounds. My left elbow was scraped and my right
calf was covered in grease from where it hit the chain as I landed
on the pavement. I was in a little bit of pain, not too bad, and I
picked up my bike ready to ride on.
The rest of the ride went pretty well, and I made sure to lean in
the direction of my released foot, but I'll never forget the warmth
in my cheeks from embarrassment as my friend said "make sure
you fix your helmet too, it's cocked off to the side." I was
Learning to Ride a Bike at 32
Pick A Side - Deirdre Gurry