Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lessons from a new rider (ME!)


I just bought by very first road bike on Monday!!  I am the kind of excited where I shook for the rest of the day and slept a total of 4 hours that night, staring for what seemed like hours at the bike-shaped shadow resting against the far wall of my apartment; a foreign presence in my studio space. A long-awaited one.

For the last four years I’ve wanted a bike.  I’d whine my desire on too-crowded trains, I’d casually spout it at parties, “yeah, I’m looking at getting a bike…” but it was a far away desire that gradually picked up speed until finally, after finishing a run around the esplanade and wondering what it would be like to be wayyyyyy out wessssst in the Greens, I decided to stop deciding.  And I bought a bike.

Yesterday was my first official “ride”.   I didn’t know where to go exactly, but I figured a safe bet would be the esplanade.  Yes, crowded.  Yes, I should probably practice on a road but whatever.  I was shaky enough on my brand new steed and had no business memorizing a loop and I most certainly did not need to figure all that out with cars flying past me in the city. Not yet. 

So off to the Esplanade I went. And for the next hour, I learned things

Let’s get to it.

A tire pump requires more muscle than you think.  The valve may be open properly, the nozzle attached perfectly to it, the gauge reading accurately, but you can’t seem to get the pump to go down all the way - it bounces back up and you get 1) frustrated and 2) concerned.  Don’t worry; you aren’t going to pop your tire (probably not).  Presssssss all the way down, beyond the resistance.   Beyond what you think is normal. This will save you a trip to the bike shop, on your somewhat-deflated front tire only to find out you just need to push harder.  That was cool.

You know exactly what I’m talking about.  The bike shorts.  Those shorts with the futon sewn into the crotch.  You feel like you’re the adult version of a Pampers commercial.  You’re not. You’re smart which is why you bought it with your bike.  So don’t walk around like you don’t know what’s in your pants.  You know what’s in your pants and it’s going to save your assana.  Also when you come down off your seat at a stoplight or whatever, remember to account for that inch of padding.  I tried to slide back on casually and the nose of the seat got stuck between my butt and the spandex.  It was not pleasant (I don’t think this is a common mistake but I somehow managed to do it).

I’ve heard this said about public speaking – how we think we sound way worse than we actually do.  Same goes for biking (there are exceptions).  As I made my way out towards Harvard on the bike path, an older gentleman rode up alongside me.
“New bike?” he asked. 
“Sure is.” I said. 
“That’s a nice ride.” He responded, pedaling easily (too easily) ahead of me
“Thanks.” I smiled and slowed down, suddenly aware.

It’s my form.  I’m not pedaling on the bumpy parts – does that give me away?  It’s probably because I haven’t put on those clip-in pedals.  I’m wearing my ratty New Balance runners I mean how dorky am I?  And my top.  I’m wearing an old t-shirt.  I should’ve put on some spandex-y thing right? I stick out like I sore thumb.  Maybe I should have found another road – too many riders here.  Watch out for the tall awkward girl on a bike…

I pedaled faster and caught up with him at the light.
“Excuse me.  Just curious, how did you know this was a new bike?”  And braced myself for the answer.
He chuckled and pointed at my chain, “It’s too clean.  You need to get some mud on that puppy.” 

I laughed at my absurd thoughts.  I’m new at this.  So what?  I can’t beat myself up for being new. We are all new in the beginning.  It’s a common denominator. It’s amazing where our thoughts can lead us. Don’t let uncertainty become an insecurity. Be okay with where you are.   OWN IT. 

On the way back home there was this long stretch of beautiful bike path in front of me.  I felt pretty confident at this point in my 35 minute total ride, so I decided to open ‘er up.  I got down in the drops (haha), switched to the big crank (?) and just started hammering.  I was the only woman on the Tour de France…no, I was in a cyclocross event…no, it was my first race and I was leading…..

My daydream broke apart like rocks on a train track when I was passed on the left.
By a man about 100lbs heavier than I am.
With saddle bags (no really, the bags) on his back wheel.
And he wasn’t even breathing hard.
So there’s that. 

I really should get a speedometer thing.   I swear I was going like 35 mph.

Other notes to you/me:
wear a light wind-breaker
your back will be sore tomorrow
practice simple things when no one’s around like looking over both shoulders while keeping your bike parallel to the line on the road
smile at people
don’t freak runners out by zooming by them
don’t ride on the esplanade until after 7:30p
20 miles takes longer than you think.  I mean I only did 10 and I was starving by the time I rolled home
eat whatever you want.  you earned it.  Especially on your first day.


 ps: if you're thinking about getting a bike. Back Bay Bicycles.  Best guys n' gals ever.