Yesterday, I did something very scary: I rode my bike. On Saturday, Jesse crushed Alpine Dam, a challenging, very hilly 58-mile ride, and he agreed to join me for what would be a casual shake out ride for him. San Francisco was unbelievably beautiful this weekend, sunny and in the mid-70s, and choosing Paradise Loop as our course was a no-brainer.
I thoroughly mentally prepared myself going into this ride. As I’ve mentioned before, biking scares me – between the cars, irresponsible cyclists, hectic intersections, and potential to crash at any point, I feel like my safety is out of my hands. Most of this fear, I realized, stems from my inability to effectively unclip and come to a stop. While watching Jesse, I realized that he doesn’t unclip one foot to touch the ground: he actually moves forward, off of his seat, unclips one foot while bending the other leg, and puts his foot down. This move is so instinctual to him that he didn’t realize that this was his technique until we boiled down what I was doing wrong. After a bit of practice, I gained confidence control over the bike.
If I could have a re-do on my entry into biking, I would do a few things differently. I bought my first road bike (I had only ever ridden beach cruisers before) while simultaneously trying clip in shoes for the first time. In hindsight, I would have bought the bike and become comfortable with the gears before buying clip in pedals.
We conquered about 35 miles, maybe my longest ride ever. I hope to go out on my bike every weekend I can until Vineman Monte Rio, an Olympic Triathlon with a 25-mile bike ride.
My fear still exists, and I’m not sure it’ll ever be conquered, but I feel like I leveled up from yesterday’s ride. Here are the lessons I learned:
- Go out early. Jesse and I left the house before 8am, arriving at Mike’s Bike’s before anyone else was out on the Marin Bike Path. Riding without cars on the road or bikers on the path made me much calmer than other times we’d gone out riding in the middle of the day.
- Practice your weak spot. I used an empty section of bike path to practice starting and stopping; by the end of the ride, my confidence in this skill increased.
- Follow someone who knows what they’re doing. Riding behind Jesse and mimicking when he’d unclip or drop a gear was helpful for me.
- Focus on form, mileage, and comfort, not speed. I started beating myself a little bit over how slow I felt I was riding, until I realized that the most important thing for me to focus on at this point is comfort and confidence in the saddle, not speed.