From Spin to REAL Biking

For the past 30 years, I can count the times I have ridden a bicycle out in the world on one hand. That’s one reason I got so deeply into inline skating. Dan would bike and I would go for a skate.

Within a few weeks of meeting Prince Charming Dan, I mounted my own bike on a stationary stand and never looked back. I knew I’d always be a sissy on the downhills. Dan and I already had a physically competitive relationship, and I could see he was a serious biker. I could not compete in this area and did not want to be an annoying lagger.

But now that Spin classes have built up my tolerance for sitting on a bike and rotating the pedals, I felt safe in saying yes to exploring the area in and around the beautiful Canadian city of Victoria, BC, a 2-hour ferry ride north of Seattle, WA. It would be fun to try out my new-found biking fitness on a moving bike. Further ahead, there will be at least one biking day on our multisport wine Tour in Chile and Argentina later this year and I wanted to get comfortable with shifting and any other issues.

What a scaredy cat I turned out to be!

There were more challenges in bustling Victoria than just learning how to shift the gears. First off, the rental place is smack dab in the middle of the city, with double-lane traffic, no bike lanes, and clueless motorists opening doors or pulling to the curb right in front of us. Trying to follow Dan and Clark as they casually maneuvered through all this was not my idea of a fun first mile on a bike!

And when did they stop making girly bikes? I had trouble getting the pedals rotating while throwing my leg over the saddle, with the bike quite often in the wrong gear for starting out. None of this stuff was second nature to me. Every bit of it was a distraction to be dealt with along with everything else. Oh, how I sympathized with my inline skating students as I felt the urge to call out “Watch out, I can’t stop!” to pedestrians or other cyclists on the street or bike path whose actions forced me to react in some way.

And the hills. Going up was OK, especially after I got good enough to shift to lower gears without dislodging the chain (I finally gave up on the gear combo of  1/1). Going down, though,  I kept a death grip on both brakes. I squeezed at the first hint of a downhill. This is what I do on skates too: I start dragging my heel brake just to reassure myself I am ready to apply full braking force the moment I feel the need.

We did some street biking on Friday and I felt proud and relieved at having survived about 20 miles of very scenic touring around the shoreline of the island, on city streets, down a couple of miles of gravel trail, and finally on a dedicated bike path. I was slow on the downhills but pedaled madly to catch up with my boys on the uphills. Legs and lungs felt good, and no butt or back pain!

On Saturday we biked another 20 miles, this time on a portion of a gorgeous trail I would recommend to my skating friends in an instant. The only glitch I had that day was the thunk, thunk, thunk that made me think I had a flat tire. It turned out I’d forgotten to pull up the kickstand.

On Sunday morning I woke up with a pretty bad backache that plagued me as I lugged my rolling bag with the disintegrating wheels back to the ferry, the light rail and finally the airport check-in. I learned several days later that I was in the throes of a systemic infection at that point, so I do not know if there was any muscle soreness from biking or if it was all kidney pain.

Now that I am feeling wonderful again, I can look back at my weekend of bike touring in Victoria BC with pleasure, and look forward to future bike adventures with less trepidation.

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