Monday, May 27, 2013

Revolution of a cyclist: I'm assuming someday I'll graduate from new rider to experienced rider, but not with moves like this

It's been yucky here. Not Minnesota yucky with freezing temperatures or snow, but there has been lots of rain and it is decidedly cool. Some (OK, Italians) might even say cold. Scarves are not merely decorative right now, they're necessary. Umbrellas are routinely carried "just in case." For heavens sake, I've taken to wearing long pants again. This is just wrong.

So when we got up this morning we watched the sky with a certain amount of distrust. It looked nice enough but we could see clouds near the hills doing their best to become organized and make rain. Around 3pm we decided that if it was going to rain it would have already happened so we headed out for a ride to beautiful pastry. Where else would we ride to?

Beautiful pastry to the west involves riding all the way across town, mostly through traffic that would make my mother faint. (I promise you there are times I actually hear her voice "Look out for that car!" and "Don't get so close!") I usually arrive on the other side feeling like I should cross myself and say a Hail Mary or two or maybe throw out a loud and Evangelical "Praise Jesus!" but I stick with the very Lutheran "It could have been worse," and keep moving.

Aside from the usual cars trying to turn right in front of me, back into me or generally force me to react to their inferior driving I had one experience that I feel I must share. I mean, this is a classic new rider mistake. I think. I find it hard to believe that I could come up with something completely new.

Hydration is important when exercising. Ask anyone. So we have spiffy water bottles that sit in wire holders attached to the bike so there's absolutely no excuse for becoming dehydrated. Unless of course you're as uncoordinated as I am. Because, and here's the kicker, you don't stop the bike and drink. Oh drink on the move.

Oh sure, I hear you all saying "How hard can it be?" That's a good question. Imagine you're sitting on the edge of a bar stool (I think this is a universal experience) with one leg just a little shorter than the others (not your leg, the stool's.) Instead of keeping your drink on the bar you have a cup holder on the stool between your ankles. In fact, the bar is gone and the stool is on wheels. You have to balance on your stool, steering to avoid all the other stools weaving around the bar and keep moving so the stools behind you don't rear end you but of course and most importantly you must continue to drink. Holding the glass is prohibited and quite frankly dangerous. Steering with one hand is difficult, shifting is impossible, braking is a nightmare and all the other people in the bar will make fun of you. (trust me, they will)

This was me today. At first I thought I was golden. No traffic on a tiny road in the middle of by God nowhere. So I cautiously felt for the bottle somewhere around my ankles. Looking down is dangerous because then you miss important stuff like potholes and cars and such that throw themselves in front of you. Which is exactly what happened. I was in the middle of taking a drink on what was mere seconds ago an empty road when suddenly there were cars parked on one side and a car coming at us on the other side and Leif threading the needle between them. I guess I was supposed to follow.

About five different solutions occurred to me in the two seconds I had before I hit something. Because threading the needle is something I do poorly.

1. Scream and hope that everything moves so I live to ride another day.
2. Scream and drop the water bottle, allowing me to use both hands.
3. Scream, hold the water bottle and attempt to brake with one hand.
4. Scream, drop water bottle and try to get my feet out of the clips so I can do a Fred Flintstone stop.
5. Scream and stab at the bottle holder with the bottle, hoping to get it in before crashing into the rear of the parked car.

I chose number five. I don't know why. Dropping the bottle so I could safely brake makes the most sense, but if I've learned anything about myself during this lifetime it's that I lack a fully developed sensibility and it completely abandons me in times of stress. On a good day what makes sense to you and what makes sense to me are probably worlds apart. When I'm stressed the distance stretches into infinity.

I guess the only good news in this is that I grew up in a time when everyone learned how to control a spin, whether it was on ice or on the school parking lot. Granted a car and a bike are two completely different vehicles, but I was certainly hoping that the results would be the same.  Instinct kicked in as I braked wayyyyyyy too hard and the rear end started to come around. I assume (the whole things is a fuzzy blur in my memory) that I steered into the skid and missed the bumper of the parked car by milometers. I mean, I know I missed it because I have no bruises and the bike appears to be whole. Leif just told me he doesn't even remember this happening. Apparently my blood-curdling scream was more of a whimper. In fact the whole episode lasted only a few seconds and I never actually stopped, I just veered around the parked car, quickly straightened out to miss the moving car and tried not to ride up Leif's back tire.

I spent the next couple of minutes talking myself out of a heart attack. I rode with one eye on my chest, convinced that I could actually see my heart pounding. Once I could breathe normally again I started feeling pretty pleased with myself for not only missing the car but safely stowing the water bottle before all hell broke loose. Yup, I was thinking I rocked. Then I realized that chances are this is going to happen again. Probably more than once, and maybe I should have a plan. Or at least practice getting that darn bottle in and out of the holder while blind.

Of course I could always try using a really long crazy straw instead of lifting the bottle all the time, but I'm sure that idea will be met with the same enthusiasm as my hope that I could have streamers on my bike. Or the helmet with the bunny ears. Cyclists (the ones with a capital "C") don't have much of a sense of humor about things like that.

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