I finally stopped painting for a bit and bought a new bike. Yes, it was a self-indulgent exercise but I had the all-clear on the home front, I bought it literally with found money and it was something I wanted to do.
For the people out there who care and ask (and there are some) it’s a 2016 GT Grade Alloy Tiagra. It has two wheels that go round and round and handle bars and … Look. It’s so far advanced from my 25-year-old Bianchi that it’s hard to explain the differences. But I took it out last weekend for a 55-km shakedown and it was great.
The rider was less than great, but better than he was a year ago. Maybe I’ll talk about that another day.
But for now, here’s where the story gets fun – for you at least.
For the first time I’ve bought a pair of cycling shoes. People who don’t cycle or spin will be surprised to learn that cycling shoes serve a purpose beyond making you look like some faux-Euro knob clicky walking through Starbucks. No, the actual purpose is to allow you to lock your feet onto the pedals of the bike. (An aside: for the record I don’t drink coffee so I don’t clicky walk in Starbucks, and I also don’t wear the lycra cycle shorts. Mine are baggy even though I’m skinny enough now to get away with Lycra. I just don’t want to cause a scene, right?)
The idea here is that you are not just pushing pedals, you can pull them up too. So, more power, more speed, more efficient use of your energy.
Now I hear some of you saying, hmm. Why would you want to do that because it sounds dangerous if you have to, like, stop in traffic or at a red light or stop sign.
Silly reader. Since when do cyclists stop at red lights and stop signs? Actually if you are me, the answer is, all the time (or at least usually, depending on traffic). But locked-in shoes take some getting used to.
And after I got them, the instructor in a course I’m taking on how to ride safely, in a group, in traffic, started the conversation by saying, “If you’ve never worn cleats before, when you fall be sure to …” and I cut him off.
“I’m not going to fall.”
He waved me off dismissively. “Yes, you are. And when you fall . . . “
Hey. I’m NOT going to fall.
“Yes. Yes, you are. Everyone falls. You will be no exception. And when you do …”
I’m not going to fall.
This went on for some time.
Last Sunday morning was spectacular. I was up and out the door and on the road just after 7a. It was a little cool but that’s a great time of day to ride because there’s not much traffic. I headed west along Lakeshore for Burlington and was enjoying the new bike.
I was learning the gears, taking time to practice locking and unlocking my feet from the pedals (so I wouldn’t fall at a traffic light) and it was all fine.
When I got to downtown Burlington I wanted to cross a bit of steep lawn to get to another bike path closer to the lake. I surveyed the grade and decide I should move slowly across the dewy grass. And I was locked in. Moving slow. On a steep grade. And.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the expression “tipping point.” It’s the point of no return – and in the saddle of a bike, it’s the point where everything happens in super slo-mo, and all you hear is a riding instructor tell you you’re going to fall.
And there I was – alone – tipping over, thankfully on a lawn, with my feet locked into my pedals.
The brain is a wonderful organ and you’d really think I’d be able to process the need to unlock one foot when moving slowly in a high-tip situation. But – and you had to be there – it all happens kind of fast (even if it feels super slo-mo) and the next thing you know you’re on your side, half under your bike, trying to look cool, wincing in a moment pain.
Before and after I was fine. No issues. But I have no muscle memory for locking in my feet and unlocking – no instinctive, proactive habit. So I’m guessing that comes with time and more locking in and unlocking, and possibly more falling over. I hope not.
I’ll keep practicing. Laura keeps saying just make sure all the insurance policies are up to date.
Speaking of “when you fall” a reminder that this is Father’s Day weekend. My dad has been a wonderful role model in my life and any shortcomings on my side of the ledger are all on me. He has always been there when I needed him.
I’m lucky too that my father in law is an amazing man. Both these men have set examples that help shape our sons into the fine young men they are.
These are not just empty words.
While it’s a Hallmark creation and poor second fiddle to Mother’s Day, I hope the dads out there remember their own dads and appreciate their families while maybe getting a little love this weekend.