Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pedaling Dizzy

**A lot of random musings run through my head on a daily basis. Frequently, these moments happen while cycling. I had considered doing a journal of "100 days of cycling," but, I think I will just share some of the posts I've started writing over the last few weeks. I'm sure many posts will seem like random nonsense to a lot of folks, but perhaps there will be something of value in at least one of them.  I have no doubt that some days will probably be simple randomness, while others may actually have purpose or entertainment for someone other than myself.  I promise not to occupy every post with these rambling sessions, but I find it therapeutic in many ways to be able to share. Although some posts may be written in the present tense (because they were typed at the time of the ride), a good chunk of time has likely passed since.

Some sort of flu/cold-like illness has taken over my body, and although it hasn't kept me off of my bicycle, I can definitely feel what it is doing to my body (and brain). Yesterday, as I was riding down a grooved, paved highway, I had felt as though I might pass out. It was as though the grooves in the roadway were having some kind of mesmerizing/hypnotic effect on me and I was sure someone would find me passed out on the side of the road (Just don't steal my bike, people... that's all I ask). But, because I made it through okay, I had decided to try again today. I woke up feeling even worse than the day before, but decided that I just need to keep going, even if I'm not able to get in any speedy rides.

The weather forecasters predicted a cool summer day, and even though I am getting a late start, I decided to put on a long sleeve jersey. Unless it's truly cold out, I typically don't opt for long sleeves, but with the illness and all, I figured it was better to have an extra layer that I could always remove if need be. As soon as I walked out the door, I could feel the heat. "Dammit! Why is it always the opposite of what they say it's going to be?" I muttered to myself as I went to get my bike. I thought about going back inside to change, but I knew I wouldn't likely make it more than a few miles, so I decided to stick with the current gear.

I should also say that this is the day I decided to try out clipless pedals/cleats again while riding. After debating back and forth about whether or not to try this for any length of time, I decided to put on my big girl pants and just give it a solid try for a couple of weeks to see how things go. I was a bit woozy as I started out, but I figured it would pass as I got going. It's funny how not being able to breathe very well can cause that light-headed sensation.

The ride was moving along splendidly (well, except for my runny nose, constant sniffing, headache, inability to breathe properly, and overall unbalance). Trying to find roads that are clear of debris, mud, and so on after the flooding is challenging, so I've been riding pretty much the same routes until I know that I can get through other areas. This gave me confidence when it came to the clipless pedal situation because I knew where all the stops and slowing would be, so I didn't have the anxiety I typically experience when riding attached to the bike. Score 1 for the pedal system.

I headed north (to drier lands) and decided to do an out and back quick ride. I was really getting warm and was debating stopping to remove the long sleeved layer, but something told me to just keep it on. Besides that, I didn't really have proper storage for it, so it would probably end up tied around my waist. As I was nearing the turning point to come home, I decided I would go a bit longer to see if I could get more time in the saddle. The dizziness was setting in, but I'm so determined right now to get my riding time before the weather turns that I just decided to go for it. I headed south down a highway, and before I knew it, I needed to turn around and head home.

I crossed the street to make a loop to come back home, and was turning the bike to face back in the direction I would be going. I had removed my right foot from the pedal so that I could put my foot down and wait for the light to turn. As I started to put my foot down, I could feel myself losing control (due to the balance issues mentioned above) and I started leaning to the left. Of course, instinctually, I wanted to put my left foot down to balance myself, but it was still attached to the pedal which just caused me to become more unsteady and before I knew it, I was on the ground.

Inside, I was thinking, "Wow, that really didn't hurt as bad as I recall it being the last time," but I knew I had to get up because traffic was coming and who knows if they'd actually see me laying in the middle of the road? Thankfully, the cross directional traffic signal was green as I hoisted myself back up. I limped to the curb to drink some water and regain my composure, just as a driver went by and yelled out his window, "Hey, are you okay? That looked rough!" All I could do was nod in his general direction as I seemed to be dazed and confused. I hadn't hit my head, but I think just my general illness was creating a disoriented feeling.
Cleaned up, it doesn't look so bad.... but it bruised nicely later
I looked down at my left leg and realized I was actually bleeding more than I thought, but I still didn't feel too bad, so I got back on the bike and started riding. What else was I going to do? I was 15 miles from home and really had no choice. Little did I realize that less than a mile up the road, I would cross paths with Sam who was on a break (sidebar: Sam wouldn't inform me of this fact until later that evening as he proclaimed, "I saw you out on the highway today... You had a huge smile... and you were hauling!" I would explain that in reality, I was probably laughing at myself for being such a dope). I could feel my left elbow burning now, and I couldn't help but laugh as I had debated earlier about removing the outer shell.  It was bad enough I was wearing my short-shorts, but as I would discover when I got home, it probably would've been quite a bit worse had I been wearing only the sleeveless jersey underneath.

Possible lessons today:
- Be smarter than ones pedals
- Listen to the inner voice
- Don't ride when ill/dizzy

In the end, I lived through the fall, and didn't remove the cleats from my shoes because of it. Really, I blame my overall klutizness, and the fact that I didn't exactly have full equilibrium with the flu that had taken hold. I'm hoping this will be the last of the falling for awhile though because it's not particularly fun, and as much as I appreciate looking the part of a cyclist, I don't really want to be a beat up rider out on the roads. Besides, I really need a cool chainring bite on the other leg to get full street cred, I think.


  1. Sorry about the fall. It happens to EVERYONE when they are new to clipless pedals. I remember watching my son, who is quite athletic with great balance, do a slow motion fall shortly after climbing on his first bike with clipless pedals - like father, like son! I'd done the same. Luckily it is mostly one's pride that is injured - scrapes and bruises aside.

    Make sure those pedals are properly adjusted. For a Shimano SPD pedal, if you cannot yank your foot out, they are adjusted too tight in my book. By "yank", I mean at an odd angle with no forethought beyond crap, I need put a foot down NOW! I do not mean by "yank" to twist and pull your foot per the "proper" motion. Proper technique is for the other 99.999% of situations.

    Have someone help you balance on the bike and give each foot a good yank. If it is a no go, loosen the pedals a little until you can pull out. Then you will be able to follow your instincts when confronted by a surprise in the future.

    Heal soon!

    1. The ride was almost two weeks ago, so I have recovered from the incident. :O) I don't mind taking a fall on occasion, but this is my third round attempt with the clipless set up, and I'm not sure why I continue to try. I have a very difficult time seeing any advantage(s), and it just causes anxiety and other issues.

      As for the pedals, they are pretty loose, but I would still have to not be a complete klutz in order to get myself out of most situations (i.e.: be aware enough to realize something is happening before I'm halfway to the ground). I think the reality is that I am often absent-minded about stops when riding (and the sickness/dizziness in this particular instance didn't help matters) to be able to use these properly. Without any benefit to be seen or felt, I question my reasons for trying to use them.

      Ultimately, I gave it a solid week of daily riding, but I took the cleats off the shoes because it just wasn't working. It's not that I can't use them, but without seeing the benefit and then experiencing other issues (like more foot/knee pain), it just made more sense to go back to what was working.

    2. Understood. Sounds like you did give it a good college try.

      I rode with clipless SPD pedals for years and do feel they offer a much more secure, safer riding experience. That said, I do not ride with them anymore because of two major problems. 1) They concentrate pedaling forces into a quarter-sized area under the foot. The hotspots created by the pressure point under the ball of my foot is the probably culprit for the permanent nerve damage I now possess. 2) The cleat position on the pedals force my feet into too narrow spacing for the width of my hips. I know, strange, but I feel like my feet are forced too close together when I pedal, causing strain at the hip joints.

      I now ride Velo Orange Grand Cru Sabot platform pedals. Pricey, but very roomy, good grip, and great classic looks.

    3. I can see how the SPD pedals could be too narrow, certainly. It's curious to me, too, that some people experience the "hot" spots, while others don't. I haven't had to contend with them feeling too narrow, nor the hot spots. My problem is that I have one wonky knee (for lack of a better way to state it) and it doesn't seem to matter if I adjust the cleat to fit the way I pedal or not, it still causes pain. I think a lot of it is that I move my feet around frequently when I ride, so being attached doesn't allow that same movement (obviously). Then, I have had some feet problems over the last month that have developed, I believe due to turning my feet out. I've tried using shims and whatnot in my shoes, but I feel like I've made things worse, so now I'm going back to ground zero to start over and see if I can fix the problems, and the ones I've created trying to fix the problems. :O)


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