Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Battle with Clipless: Conquered Fear?

Clipless pedals have been a source of anxiety in my bicycle life for some time. When Sam and I first met, I remember watching him clip into his pedals to go mountain biking, and having a twinge of fear ring through my body. I can't help it. I'm just one of those people who can literally feel pain when someone falls. An empath is the term some would use, though I think I'm just very open to my emotions. While Sam doesn't regularly fall off his bicycle, I have built up in my mind that these 'evil pedals' can bring no good. The mere mention of clip/clipless pedals in the past instantly brought a sensation of being trapped and of falling to the ground.
Clipless pedals on the Raleigh... do I dare ride?
Because of this innate fear and caution when even seeing clipless pedals, you can imagine Sam's surprise when I started talking about the possibility of putting them on the Hillborne. I have to admit, I surprised even myself with this matter. So, after a bit of talking, discussion, back and forth on the issue, I finally decided to order a pair, and set about a plan to conquer the mighty clipless pedals.
Shimano clipless pedal on Raleigh Super Course
While it may not be a factor for some individuals, one of the other things that bothered me about the idea of clipping into pedals (though this was a minor issue in comparison to my fears) is that the shoes, much like cycling apparel, are so unattractive in my opinion. I just wanted to find a shoe that looked like a semi-normal shoe, rather than one that looks as though I'm about to enter the Tour de France. It's just a personal opinion, but I was happy to find a few different choices in a more every day kind of shoe. I ended up getting a pair of Keen Presidio shoes that had compatibility with the Shimano pedals I purchased.
Normal looking shoes, which is just what I wanted, rather than a more typical 'road' shoe
The bottoms of the seemingly normal shoes have a small clip on them
to attach to the pedal (please, ignore the dog hair)
While looks are certainly not everything, there is something helpful in being excited to put something on, rather than not loving it, or even liking it remotely. I think I was able to find the happy medium with this shoe. It's not the most attractive, but it doesn't repulse me either.

So, after having both pedals and shoes, it was time to start practicing.

Day One:  We (the royal we, of course, as Sam is the one who did the work) put the pedals on the hooptie bicycle. Just looking at the pedals kind of made my stomach drop, so I had to get used to the idea first.
First try was in the house to see how the clips worked
Day Two:  First, I tried the pedals out indoors to see what they felt like and where the clips were in relationship to the shoe/pedal. Then, I got on the saddle and sat with one leg up on the curb and practiced clipping in and out of the other pedal. Then, I switched sides and tried clipping in and out of the other side. I never once pedaled the bicycle.
Trying out the pedals outdoors on day three
Day Three: I repeated day two's activities, and then was brave enough to try riding with only one side clipped in to the pedals. After practicing this a few times, I decided to take the leap and attach both sides and hope for the best. Miraculously, I didn't fall over; but, since the brakes on the Raleigh aren't great, and probably need to be replaced, it was a little scary stopping at times. On this evening, I asked Sam to go ahead and put the clipless pedals on the Hillborne, so that I could ride it on day four. A scary prospect, but it needed to be done eventually anyway.
Clipless pedals on the Hillborne! Woo hoo!!
Day Four:  I decided that in order to feel comfortable enough with these pedals, I needed to take an actual ride somewhere that involved lots of stop signs and signals. Having them on the bike that I'm comfortable riding made more sense to me than trying to make things work on the Raleigh which is in all honesty, too big for me. I had made the decision not to go on too long of a ride this first time out, so I took a path I'm familiar with that is about 20 miles. Seemed like a long enough ride and I'd be able to stop and start plenty of times to test my proficiency with the clipless pedals.
A familiar road that runs along the major interstate. Though not many stops, I had plenty of room
to start and stop the bike as I saw fit.
All was going well. I was riding along, stopping at will, all the while preparing myself by clipping out of the pedals before I started braking, to know that I would be able to put my foot down when the time came. I was able to take in the beautiful sites, and even though things are quite dry/dead right now, the skies were just beautiful!
Beautiful, partially cloudy skies in Colorado today
I considered going on a longer ride because all was going so well, but instead decided that I should return home. Riding home, I was becoming so confident, that I even took out the little camera to take some cool pictures of the shadows of the Hillborne.
Look at me! Riding with one hand, taking pictures AND pedaling in clipless pedals.
Who would have thought?
I was nearing home, and debating another fear I have: curbs. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I had an incident in which I was riding on my mothers' road bicycle (which was, of course, too large for me) that had super skinny tires. I remember riding up on the curb to the house, and falling on my elbow. Not only did I do this once, but I did it three times in a matter of four days. I ended up with this horrible, scabby elbow that was green and pussy for months. I've never forgotten that, and have been working on this fear slowly, as I know that I won't actually fall over on a curb, but always remember that. As I neared the house, I unclipped the right foot, so I could prepare to ride up the curb of the driveway. I suppose I should point out that these aren't flat curbs like those in many neighborhoods, but rather are sloped curbs that don't recede to the ground at all. As I approached the curb, I decided to go for it. I rode up and had no problem at all!

Until..........  As you will recall, I had unclipped my right foot, but I forgot that when I come home, my habit has been to put my left foot on the ground.  As I was nearly stopped, I attempted to put my left foot on the ground, but it was, of course, still clipped into the pedal. In an instant, I was on the ground. Ugh! So close to a perfect ride. As I lay there laughing at myself, two neighbors came rushing to my aid. One of these neighbors doesn't even speak English, but was still trying to help, the other just kept asking if I was okay. I couldn't stop laughing, but tried to choke out, "I'm okay. I'm okay." I really was okay, sans a bit of a bruised ego, a small scrape on my hand/elbow, and a bit of a sore left ankle (from trying to twist out at the last second, I presume).
Small scrape on the outside of my hand/palm
A tiny bit of blood, and a little scrape, though very hard to see with all my freckles!
While my biggest fear was realized in one quick moment, I understand now that it isn't that bad to fall. I had read prior to doing this that everyone falls at least once in their clip/clipless pedals, and I guess I was no exception to this rule. I'm just hoping it was the first and only time it happens, mostly because I felt like a complete idiot for falling in my own driveway.
I rock! Riding in the clipless pedals and taking a picture. :o)
In all of it though, I have to say that there's something to be said for conquering a fear. I felt free, and as though I could do anything in these moments of riding. I didn't feel trapped by the pedals at all, and in reality, didn't notice them much, other than knowing that I needed to be aware of stopping and prepare for it before the last second.
Though the unknown is scary, it can be freeing to conquer a fear
I've discovered in all of this that it is important to overcome fears, especially when they are irrational. While I am a klutz (as was proven by my tumble this morning), I think this is helping me be more aware of my surroundings, and to take chances with things that I might not otherwise try at all. I am very proud of myself for working through this fear, and I truly believe that if I can use these pedals, anyone who can ride a bicycle can do so as well. While clipless pedals may not be something everyone needs or wants, I would encourage those who have a fear to try to work through it. You may surprise even yourself! Now, I must go and ice my ankle, as I believe it is swelling before my eyes. Probably should check the Hillborne for scratches as well. :o)

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