Archive for January, 2013

Project Status (new road bike)

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Road bike trainer for stationary cyclingAs long as I’m not riding in the real world, I feel pretty comfortable on my road bike! I don’t even think about wearing elbow pads. BikeTrainer

A week ago I borrowed a trainer on which I can mount the rear wheel of my bicycle to get a workout in my garage. I don’t need the exercise so much as I need the muscle memory of bicycling basics. The way I see it, I am getting my body used to the bike fit and posture and I can practice moving my hands without fear of losing control of the steering. Some day I’ll have to pull out my water bottle for a drink or signal a turn. I also get to practice looking over my shoulder in preparation for turning when I’m near traffic.

Very importantly, the trainer is helping me learn how to instinctively shift the gears. Sometimes I get it wrong and start to panic. I have ten options for my right hand and two for my left. Riding on my straight, flat rail trail, I’m getting used to simple shifting up and down where the only variables are wind and stop signs at the intersections (and a major dip by the golf course!).

On the trainer I pedal away at a medium resistance, imagining myself biking in my local real world. As I gaze out the window at the peak of Mt. Diablo, I dream of the day I will be able to confidently circle the block in our own neighborhood. Just out my front door is a pretty steep one-block climb followed by a right turn down a gentle slope. Then I must make two right turns to return home. As I turn right again onto my own street and begin to repeat the steep climb, I need to shift correctly or I’ll stall out and have to get a foot out of the pedal clips to prevent a fall.

While practicing shifting on the trainer, I settled on special names for the left-hand gear shifters to use as memory aids. The little lever that makes pedaling easier on the steeps is now named “Wembly” after the steep street I live on. “Westridge” is the name of the gently descending street after I turn right at the top of the hill — and the larger gear I have to push to avoid scaryslipperyspeedy RPMs. Tomorrow I’ll find out if this works better than the many adjectives I’ve tried using to reflect either my shifting incentives or outcomes.

Stay tuned. I’m still evolving!

Biker with Inline Skating Beginner Empathy

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

There are slopes I’d feel safer descending on my inline skates than on my fancy new road bike. My fears of falling are greater when biking than skating!

That’s why, every week I am devising new ways to live up to my expectations to become competent enough to get over my beginner fears and enjoy myself. The learning process is constantly reminding me of my own advice to beginning inline skaters: in the past 20 years we identified and drilled away dozens of issues related to posture and fear.

So far, many biking situations put me into a panic and make me want to brake and bail, a state I call “terminal velocity.” I know from experience that I can raise the bar on when this feeling kicks in through hours of focused practice. So that’s my plan, even though it’s been bitterly cold these first few weeks of winter.

This morning I re-read my story “Fear: a Blessing and a Curse.” I can definitely apply anxiety-reducing tips I wrote there to my weekly practice sessions.

  • Limit the variables in the chosen learning environment (parking lot)
  • Practice and repetition builds confidence and maintains the learning momentum (weekly biking sessions when possible, and riding stationary on a trainer so can build muscle memory for future activities on the road, like grabbing my water bottle, looking over my shoulder and doing a turn signal)
  • Observe how the bike responds to my movements, how others move on and handle their bikes, how left turns are different than right turns
  • Play around, don’t always drill: get quality rolling time under my belt
  • Accept that fear is healthy and part of who I am (but don’t let it get irrational)

After my half-hour rail-trail ride last Friday, I practiced large figure 8 turns around the tree planters separating the lobes of parking spaces. This Friday, I am going to try guiding the bike between ever-narrowing chalk lines and then pairs of cones to build steering skills and tolerance for tight squeezes.

During spin class these days, I am trying to focus on strengthening my core, spinning with my legs, keeping the weight off my hands and building applicable muscle memory, such as looking behind me over my shoulder.

Now I’m reading a 2001 book by Greg LeMonde (having lost Lance as my hero). Competent cyclists likely don’t remember going through all of this to get as relaxed as they are today. Those who learned young enough and never quit never had to think twice.

But this is the Liz that is.