Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Confessions of a Bicycle-Loving Klutz

By nature, I am a klutzy person. There's just no getting around it, and the harder I try to avoid this flaw, the more it seems to rear its little head. It started quite young, too. One of my earliest memories is of tripping on a toy at the age of 2 and falling through a sliding glass door at the back of our house onto a courtyard of bricks (I still have the scar on my forehead from that little doozy). At age 11, I was in our backyard, daydreaming on a self-supported cot when my mother called out to me. I immediately lifted my head to see what she needed and managed to flip myself over, face first, on to our cement patio. Blood immediately poured from my mouth, and I have to admit, that one really hurt. To this day, I cringe when I think about it. At age 20, I was miniature golfing with a small group of friends. While teetering on the edge of a cement block in some wedge heels, I managed to fall and twist my ankle. I couldn't walk for weeks.
*Image source here
This could be a never-ending list of episodes, and while these are just a few examples, I was always bruised or scabbed as a kid and young adult. It's slowed somewhat in adulthood, but I can't help but hold on to those experiences. This has led to some strange behaviors when it comes to bicycles. I had my share of bike accidents as a kid, but there haven't been too many major falls in adulthood. Strangely, I have adopted some interesting (some might say odd) habits to avoid falling. 

For instance, I have to start pedaling with my left foot. For some reason, I am off-balance when I try to start with my right. It doesn't seem like a huge deal, except that I know it must be annoying to watch this crazy person back pedal her crank every time she stops so that she can start on her left side. I've tried to break myself of this habit, but I am petrified that something disastrous will happen if I start off with the right foot.

Another of these odd habits is that I cannot "properly" mount a bicycle. I can't even do a push off when straddling a bike to get some starting momentum. Instead, I must have the foot as described above and simply start pedaling. I just feel shaky and unsure of myself and imagine myself toppling immediately.
My feet are kind of cut out of this shot, but you can see that my left was going down first
Stopping is no better. I have to put my left foot down first. I've wondered if perhaps there is some sort of opposite-dominant-hand scenario playing out in all of this, but I've realized that it's one of those things I've done simply to protect me from myself (or rather, my clumsiness).  

Other small oddities that have popped up? I have a kind of strange fear of people watching me take off on a bicycle. There's something unnerving about it that puts me on edge. I am most keenly aware of this at bike shops when I'm test riding a bike, or when taking off on a bike that I don't normally ride. Often times the sales person at bike shops will follow me outside (merely to make sure everything is set up properly), but they always watch me set off which completely freaks me out. I have a fear that I will somehow fall off the bike (though this has never happened) and be absolutely mortified and potentially bruised.

While none of these behaviors are life-altering, I have become very aware of my continual need to do them. So, confession time...what sorts of habits have you developed while riding your bike that perhaps fall a bit from the norm? Do you have any odd behaviors you can't seem to break, or maybe they don't seem to be a bother at all? 


  1. Hi! I've been lurking for a couple of months and this post persuaded me to decloak. :)

    I am almost exactly the same way. My husband is >this< close to wrapping me in bubble wrap to protect me from my clumsy self. I also have a thing about starting with a particular foot, but for me it's the right foot. I nearly got stuck trying to cross a road because I couldn't get the pedal in the correct position to take off with my right foot.

    What do you mean by "properly" mounting a bicycle? I start on the left side of my bike and throw my right leg over the bike (with varying degrees of success and embarrassment). I cannot mount my bike from the right side. Simply cannot.

    I've gotten pretty good at pedaling while holding the handlebar with my left hand (so I can snap photos with my right), but I have to coast if I'm doing anything with my left hand and holding onto the handlebar with only my right. I'm right hand dominant.

  2. Oh goodness... I've been there - trying to start with the "wrong" foot and then nearly falling. It's usually when I'm trying to hurry across because of a light change or someone waiting for me. Perhaps bubble wrap would be a good solution for me, too? :o)

    I completely forgot about having to be on a particular side of the bike (boy, I really do have problems - too many of these things for me). I have to throw my right leg over from the left side... not while moving or pushing off, mind you, but at a stand still position.

    I have often wondered if I was a lefty in childhood and my parents "forced" right-handedness on me. I find I do several things with my left hand (or side) subconsciously.

  3. I can so relate to this post as I am ridiculously awkward. :). I was thinking that you might be suffering from the right hand/left hand thing as I do. I'm left handed, but was forced to be a righty. After a month, I'm still terrified to try the clipless pedals. I already fell once and it was right after I clipped in one foot with the other one on the ground. I still don't know how I managed that. :)

  4. The clipless pedals can be a challenge. I gave those a try last year, and while the riding was fine, and I was so very proud of myself for not falling, as I was pulling into the driveway, I fell right over. Why? Because I unhooked the wrong foot. :o) They came off very soon after that little incident. I know I can use them, but it wasn't worth the stress it was causing me.

  5. Oh man, can I relate to this post! I have the same left-foot fixation and hate having anyone watch me during take-off. The more experienced the cyclist, the more I don't want them watching, although I'm slowly getting less self-conscious with practice. I've been a klutz all my life, didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 9 and just started up again recently well into adulthood. My little start-up rituals have been like a security blanket that I'm working on convincing myself I don't really need, but if they get and keep me riding, then they do serve a good purpose! :)

  6. I'm all for the rituals if they keep anyone riding! :o) I'm just so disturbed that I've been doing them for so many years now. I think it's just in my nature (because of the innate klutziness) to be cautious and have developed these habits so that I don't cause harm to myself.

    I also understand learning to ride a bike a little later in childhood. While I did ride and have a bike at a fairly young age, I actually had training wheels until I was almost 9. My folks must have been very tuned into my ability to fall without provocation.

  7. I blame some of my hip pain on always starting off and landing on the same foot so I have "opposite day" about once a week where I try to start on a different foot. It can be very challenging, but you can get more used to it. Not recommended in heavy traffic though. Save if for the deserted streets ; )

  8. Good advice, Martha... I know I need to become more coordinated at some point in life, and there's no time like the present. :o)


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