It’s the time of year for me to get my bike, Jenny, out and start riding!
My bike is named Jennyanydots after a character in the play CATS. Jennyanydots’ job is self-prescribed; she keeps the mice and cockroaches in line and away from destructive, mischievous behaviors.
PURRFECT (get the pun?!) reminder for someone who intends to keep 220 pounds off and T2 Diabetes solidly in remission through lifestyle changes…
Jenny is a glittering metallic black frame with polka dots 🙂 and pink bar wrap.
She has taught me a few really important lessons.
Beyond learning about endurance, confidence, camaraderie and new levels of fitness, I would have to say the most memorable lessons so far involved clips and bike shorts.
Anyone who rides is probably starting to chuckle to themselves… The lessons those two items teach seem to be legend. MANY funny stories start with one of those items in the starring role…
Once learned; they are never forgotten. 🙂
We’ll start with bike shorts. First thing you should know is that the padded portion of the shorts — that align with the seat to protect your valuable parts — is actually called the chamois.
It totally makes you feel like you are walking around with a full diaper.
They are flattering on NO ONE. Ever.
And yet they are wickedly useful if you want to be on your bike for longer than… oh… a mile.
In general if it’s a good pair of shorts, padded for a gender specific rider; they are worth their weight in gold.
The biggest lesson about the chamois? It’s NOT meant to be worn with underwear. It is really meant to be the only thing next to your skin.
No one ever told me that.
I knew women who were riding when I started and I’m still kind of pissed that not a single one of them clued me in on this important little tidbit…
The shorts I bought – true, they were clearance rack specials – didn’t have any kind of instructions or warning labels. Just how to wash and care for the chamois.
Turns out underwear will eventually create additional friction points INSIDE of the shorts… And you can get some spectacular chafing on longer rides. Like the kind of chafing that leaves scars.
So about mile 28 on my first 65-miler I find myself pitching my bike to the ground and waddling into a porta-potty to strip off my bike shorts and underwear. I stuffed the underwear – not even remotely trying to be subtle — into the nearest trash can. And getting OUT of those bike shorts with my feet still in bike shoes/clips, while trapped in a tiny and miserably hot porta-potty? I’ll remember the experience for the rest of my life.
Limping back out to my biking companions begging for lube/glide/anti-chafe/numbing relief was humbling and embarrassing as hell.
My ALL male riding companions were highly amused and entertained as this played out. I was not. I was miserable. There was NO WAY to hide it — they all knew what the issue was. My only solace? One of them got to laughing at me so hard, he tipped over on his bike. SMALL, petty victory. But a victory for my ego.
I got things as squared away as possible. Finished the ride. And walked funny for the next two weeks. That was July 2013. I have biked plenty of underwear-free, happy, amazing miles since that day. 🙂
So… next up would be clips…
I was so hesitant to ride with clips.
I was convinced that I would be attaching myself to a death contraption with no way to escape. They looked scary. I had heard stories about how they took some serious getting used to.
I finally realized that I loved riding enough to figure out this clipping in/out thing… A couple of friends wore me down. They convinced me that it would make a noticeable, positive difference over distances and on hills. (For the record, they were right!)
I got great advice from my friends Joe and Josh who had their own war stories about learning the ins/outs of clips.
- Clip in WHILE holding onto a barn/door frame.
- Practice the little ankle/heel flicking motion that un-clips your foot — practice it a ton — while your bike is stable and NOT moving.
- THEN ride on grass or a soft surface.
- Practice pushing off, clipping in, clipping out and stopping on a soft surface.
- ONLY THEN should you go out on the road.
I practiced a bunch. I felt great and confident.
I mean HOW could I possibly forget that my FREAKING feet are attached to my bike?!?
Off I went. I did great! I rode for about 3 miles. Felt confident. Could feel that I could use my legs pushing AND pulling and that these clips were going to let me use ALL of my muscles to make the bike move! It was truly an exhilarating feeling!
Then I hit the stop sign to cross Highway 226.
I started to stop.
I suddenly could NOT remember how to get my feet unattached from the bike. I tried pulling my feet up — which is NOT the motion. It’s a simple, fairly dainty ankle/heel flick away from the bike that actually does the uncoupling…
I stopped at the stop sign, yanking WILDLY on my feet…
ALL practice totally forgotten.
I tipped over, in a very gentle fashion, in super slow motion… Totally attached to both pedals.
A trucker passing by slowed down and, realizing I was OK, merrily honked at me and gave me the thumbs up sign. I flipped him off as I laid on my side, tangled in my bike, laughing and trying to figure out how I was going to get my feet unattached and get up off the ground.
I got it figured out and started off again — this time vowing to practice clipping in and out LONG before the next stop.
I STILL think about clipping in/out LONG before I plan to stop. 🙂
Heel flicks and Commando. 🙂
That’s what my bike has taught me so far.
I know we’re not done learning together. 🙂
What lessons has your bike taught you?