Biker with Inline Skating Beginner Empathy

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.

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