Kris and I both had our first wrecks on our new bikes yesterday. I was involved in both of them, actually….
First, as I briefly mentioned yesterday, I rode my bike home from and back to the garage, where my car was having new tires put on (ugh). On the way back to pick up the car, I pulled out onto my street only to discover my backpack was slightly crooked. I reached around to adjust it, but it wasn’t just on crooked – one of the straps had been pulled super tight, so pulling on it just pulled me off balance and I fell over. I wasn’t even scratched (I do have a small bruise) but it was super embarrassing because like all of my neighbors were outside and witnessed it (at least one cared enough to ask if I was ok).
Then, later, Kris and I decided to practice riding to his office (he is hoping to start bike commuting tomorrow). I’m not very used to having to warn pedestrians of my presence yet, so when I was approaching a person who had literally been walking on the same side of the path for ages, I didn’t think to warn him (I know this is my fault, no need to tell me again, ok?). He suddenly walked straight in front of me, for seemingly no reason! Kris later told me that he was talking to another pedestrian out in the street, but I hadn’t realized that. I was able to stop before I hit him, but Kris was not, and ran into me. Of course the two pedestrians decided it was my fault because “women drivers.” They were trying to be funny and diffuse the situation, but obviously I did not find it too amusing. I mean, I let the situation diffuse, but I definitely did not laugh.
In a way, I’m glad I got these little wrecks out of the way – I’m not a very confident biker, so being able to have a couple of mini wrecks pulled away some of the pressure of “what if I wreck?!” On the other hand, the wrecks have also led me to second guess myself – I worry that perhaps I’m not good enough at cycling to handle this, and that I am not the type of person who should have run out and bought a new, expensive bike. I really honestly worry that this was a terrible mistake because I’ll never be able to handle it.
You see, when I mentioned before that I was nervous about getting a bike because I didn’t really know what I was doing, I meant it. I’m not a very confident biker because I’m not very experienced and I’m not really gaining experience because I’m not really confident – it’s a vicious cycle that has followed me from childhood. It’s not that I’m afraid of cycling, it’s that I’m just nervous, tense, and worried the whole time. When I was a kid, you see, we lived somewhere where it was difficult to ride. I had bikes all throughout childhood (my dad even rebuilt a vintage bike for me at one point!) but until I was about 9 or 10, I did not really have a place to ride/bike appropriate to terrain (I needed a mountain bike for the areas where the other kids went). I remember being 9 or 10 and my friends re-teaching me how to ride when I finally got a mountain bike. I always felt like I wasn’t “good” at biking, because I was always behind them in skill level, but in retrospect, it was just that they had more experience than me. As a child, though, it was because I wasn’t good at riding. I was always going to be the awkward clumsy kid that got made fun of because I sometimes fell over when turning, couldn’t take my hands off the handlebars, couldn’t pop wheelies, and could barely stand up to pedal. It didn’t help that my most active biking years as a kid were when I was my most overweight (I stopped when I was 14 and we moved again – still a place where I COULD ride but I moved away from the friends I had ridden with).
Now, as an adult, I still have no idea how to do anything except basically ride the bike along in a straight line while clutching onto it for dear life. I seriously practice doing hand signals (not in front of cars I could confuse!) because I’m so afraid I’m going to wreck lifting one arm off of the handlebars. I know this is no way to behave, and that with experience I will get better, but it’s still very frustrating and I worry that I will NEVER get better because I lack confidence (creating the potential for a self-fulfilling prophecy). The wrecks yesterday were a huge blow to my confidence, on top of the fact that I made a lot of mistakes riding with Kris. I went the wrong way two times (like down impassable paths), for example. I was already nervous, and this just made me more nervous, because he kept making me go out in front of him, but I did not know where I was going (he did). I really hated riding out in front not just because I didn’t know where I was going but because I have a lot of trouble with spatial understanding – for example, it was terrifying to pull over in front of him to let people pass in the other direction, even if I looked behind me, because I was afraid I would misestimate the distance and pull right into him. I was glad we were able to complete a 6 mile ride, but largely it just reminded me why I bought this bike meant for my fall commute so early – I am completely unprepared.
On a lighter note, Kris’s new bike is awesome for him! Hopefully he isn’t too embarrassed by me sharing this, but when I first came home with my new bike and we tried to ride together with him on his teeny tiny mountain bike, he had a terrible time keeping up with me and wanted to turn around after 5 minutes! I tried to assure him it was probably that the bike didn’t fit him, but I worried that he would think it was an effect of being out of shape. He isn’t really out of shape in general, but he is not quite as fit as he was when he used to bike commute every day (that bike got stolen) so I was concerned that he thought he had REALLY gotten out of shape. On the new bike, though, he is faster than me. I’m really glad it isn’t me on that bike – its shifters are down on the lower part of the frame and it has toe clips he has to adjust with his hands….while riding! I don’t know if I could ever handle that! He has not only adjusted to these new changes, but is zooming past me on rides. This was his justification for making me go in front, actually – he claimed it was easier for him to catch back up afterwards. It is clear that getting him a bike that is the right size and more suited to his riding situation (a paved path) was a good choice.