Monday, June 7, 2010

Clip In, Clip Out

The night before Curt left for Haiti, we went over his list of tutorials that I needed to know before he left. After I learned to work the iTouch (or whatever it's called), and how to ahem... check for signs of heat on the dog, we moved to "learn to use clip in shoes for new bike." I wish we'd video taped it... Who knew there could be such a huge learning curve for something so simple?

I got out my cycling shoes, but they have a strap release like a ski boot and the last time I went skiing was before I had kids (over nine years ago). I legitimately struggled just to get the dumb shoes "open" so I could put them on. These are triathlon shoes too so in theory, I'm supposed to be able to get these on and off super fast to cut the times in the transition area. Fat chance on that one.

Once I mastered the lever and strapped the shoes to my feet, I straddled the bike and Curt started giving me verbal instructions. I was so focused on the pedal that I forgot I was supposed to balance and immediately started falling toward the van. After Curt rescued me, we switched strategies. He knelt down, held my tire, and with his face inches from the ground started talking me through where the clip on the bottom of the shoe was in relation to where it needs to go on the pedal. You would have thought he was speaking a foreign language. The longer I struggled, the more frustrated I got and the funnier the situation seemed. I'd get everything lined up and he'd say, "Okay, now push down with your foot" and I'd push out and over or down and the wrong way and then my foot would go flying off the pedal. We'd both laugh and he'd just look at me and say, "Wrong."

After at least 15 minutes of struggling, we almost gave up. I mean really. I managed to graduate from college. How can I not figure out these dumb pedals? I decided to keep trying and all of a sudden we both heard the welcome "CLICK" of the shoe snapping in. I was so excited I forgot that I was now attached to the bike and promptly fell right over on top of Curt's head. He set me upright and I tried again. CLICK. Once I figured out the motion, it got easier. We ventured out of the garage and into the rainy night. I got one shoe clipped in and pedaled timidly around the cul de sac with Curt barking orders. "Prepare for a stop. How do you get your shoe out? Twist your foot and pull it out. Stop slowly. Okay. Now start up again and try to re-clip your foot." OY! I was certain I was going to end up in the emergency room but I managed to avoid further crashes and when I was good and soaked, pedaled up the driveway and back into the garage. That was four days ago.

This morning the sun came out again and I knew I should try to actually ride my bike further than the end of the cul de sac before I forget how to clip in. I dropped Paige off at my friend's house and donned all my official cycling gear: helmet, ski-boot cycling shoes, and running shorts. (I definitely need some of those padded cycling shorts.) Got my bike down and started the self-help talk. Out loud. "Okay, don't slip and fall on the garage floor. Those shoes are slippery. Careful now. Okay. Try to clip in...." I took at least ten practice circles in the cul de sac, stopping and starting. Clip in. Clip out. Start. Stop. Do it again. I finally ventured out of the neighborhood, flew down the steep hill and unclipped in time to stop and look for cars. Clipped back in but forgot about gearing to get up the hill by the golf course. I freaked out and instead of trying to remember what side I needed to push to shift down, I unclipped and bailed off my bike. But I forgot that my fancy shoes are slippery and have pegs in the bottom which eliminates pushing your bike up a hill without grave danger of falling. All the golfers were staring at me in my obviously new (cause it's still shiny) gear tip-toeing gingerly up this baby hill pushing my road bike. Can you say embarrassing?

I managed to get back on and start the pep talk again, but this time I had to focus on gears. Which side worked which set of gears and did I push the button down or over to get it to move up and down. It's so confusing especially for someone who scored 20% on the mechanical portion of the skills test you take in high school. Right about the time I realized all the gadgets on the right side worked the back set of gears, I saw a stop sign. "Oh no. I have to unclip and stop and not crash."

And then I had to turn left. But I never ride a bike. I always run. Against traffic and use the cross walks to make turns. I must have sat at that intersection for five minutes trying to remember how I've seen bikers make turns. Do they do it like a car? Or like a runner where they cross, stop and re-cross the other direction? I was only a mile from the gym, so I rode there and asked someone how to make a left turn on a bike. I wish I was exaggerating or joking, but I'm completely serious. Can you say humbling? I practiced more clipping in and out in the parking lot and FINALLY (now 30 minutes later) set out on the highway to risk my life on my first real bike ride.

There I was, pedaling down a busy highway talking to myself and concentrating ferociously on not falling, staying on the shoulder and off the actual road, figuring out the gears, and worrying about left-turns and clipping in and out. I made two successful left turns without getting killed, made some progress on figuring out the gears, and clipped in and out at several stop signs and road crossings. All in all, I rode 20 miles without crashing, turning illegally or getting killed and I consider that great progress. Whether or not I'll actually love cycling like I love running is still up for debate. I'm just glad I lived to see another day.

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