Monday, September 6, 2010

A Beginner

I've only been riding a bike as my main form of transportation for about 14 months. I've ridden a lot of miles in that time, probably close to 4000. But, clearly, I have so much more to learn. I think there is a Zen Buddhist belief that you should always have a beginner's mind even if you have been doing things for years. I get that, having a beginner's mind yesterday helped get me up Mt. Scott. As I was struggling up that hill I kept thinking about how my friend Leslie who (along with Darryl of Loving The Bike) is the person I've learned the most about cycling from. "Leslie has probably done this a hundred times," I said to myself as I was riding (I think of her as the Queen of the Hills). Then, she told me yesterday that she has only tried Mt. Scott once and she didn't make it. She had to walk half of it. I wonder if I would have forced myself to keep pedaling had I known that.

Anyway, I'm diverging. Today was a day when instead of being such a beginner (which I definitely still am) I wished I had more experience. I was just going to go do a simple Mt. Tabor ride. You know, stay close to home, get the heart pumping for a bit. I rode away from home and turned left onto the bike street behind a guy riding what I would have called a 10-speed when I was a kid. He had two bright, shiny metal fenders tucked into his messenger bag and as I rode behind him I thought, "That is awesome. He is going to keep riding in the rain." We came to a stop sign at a fairly busy cross-street. I unclipped as I always do at stop signs, but he didn't even give the stop sign the slightest of pauses. He barreled on through and that is why I was so shocked to see two cars coming. One slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting him by inches and the other car (behind the first car) swerved to the right towards me. I gasped in terror at the near miss and before I know it my front wheel has turned, I've lost my balanced and I go crashing down to the pavement. Everybody stops to check on me. I seem to be alright although there is blood pooling on my knee again.

As I ride away I think, "Clearly I am not qualified to be using these clipless pedals." Had I not been following the cues given by the cyclist in front of me and instead assumed that there was a car coming, I wouldn't have fallen. Damn it. The bruise on my hip from last time still hasn't healed.

I experiment with unclipping both feet at every stop, but this just makes me feel unsteady. Climbing Mt. Tabor, my whole right side is protesting. My date with the pavement has left me with a cramping calf and an aching hip. I head back down and, feeling defeated, head for home. Today is just not my day.

About a mile from home, my bike starts singing. My back fender is rubbing and for a moment I think that the duct tape must have come off from where I patched it back together last week. Nope, it has broken again...this time in a different spot. This poor bike. The brakes are all scraped up. The fender is broken in two places now. I haven't even gotten to 2000 miles on her yet. I'm sorry, Amie. I guess it is better than her looking all shiny and new and never getting ridden.

When I get home I sit in my chair and cry. Then, I wipe my tears, clean and bandage my wound, and think about what I learned. My skinned-up knee will heal. My brakes, although scraped, still work. My fender will be replaced (or get another round of duct tape until I can replace it). That rider in front of me hopefully learned to be more careful when crossing that street (it really is hard to see there). I learned not to follow the cues of a rider in front of me and instead that I should just assume there is traffic. And, you know, when it is all said and done, even after falling, I still got up and rode to the top of a volcano. There's probably a lesson in that, too.


  1. Wow, what a compliment. I am very proud to be one of the people who you've learnt about cycling from. Thank you for that.

    I think you've been doing great so far and the more you ride, the more you will learn. I'm happy to see you looking at the positive side of things and taking your lessons learnt to continue to be a better and stronger rider. Keep on Riding Strong.


  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Darryl. I kept looking at this comment (again and again) as I was struggling through my fear last week. Getting through to the other side feels like such a relief! What a great feeling to be back to loving the bike!

  3. Awesome......good for you. It feels really good knowing that something I have said (or wrote) is able to help someone out. I appreciate you sharing that with me.

    Keep on Loving the Bike and always Enjoy Your Ride.