Monday, May 9, 2011

Going clipless

I have every intention to go through my injury filled first experience being clipped in to my pedals, but I want to start by explaining something to the non-riders out there that I just learned.

Ok. So when you buy a bike you will get flat pedals (with nerdy reflectors) that are in almost every way similar to the pedals you had on your Huffy when you were ten. The only difference is that the flat pedals on your adult bike have metal teeth on each side that attack your ankles any chance they get (amirite?) -- other than that, we're talking samesies.

"Real" bikers or "Serious" bikers tend to replace those flat pedals with something like this, which allows you to clip your super-cute bike shoes onto your pedals for better performance.

Now, here's the part I want to clear up: Those pedals that allow you to "clip" your shoe onto them are actually called "clipless". I know. It boggles the mind. Actually there is a reason behind it, but it's boring, so I'm not going to explain it. I just wanted to avoid any future confusion.

Ok, so I had my first experience (outside of my kitchen) going clipless a few days ago. On the drive to the trails, I started to get super nervous. My whole body tensed up in record time while my stomach began to pulsate in a rhythm that could only be interpreted as "Don't do this -- This won't be fun -- Don't do this -- You're thirty-one". Anyone that tells you that it's not scary the first time they rode clipless is a total liar liar pants on fire. And anyone claiming that you aren't destined to fall your first time going clipless probably also has some magic beans you might be interested in.

After a few practice sessions around the parking lot, I started to calm down. I was clipping out and snapping back in with a surprising ease. However, once we started the ride my fear came flooding back and before I knew it, I was on the ground. Luckily I didn't fall until we were off the road and onto a trail -- but the dirt might as well have been concrete from my perspective.

I rolled up onto Michael, who had stopped on a dime the second we hit the trail, and found myself scrambling to release my feet. My left foot came loose immediately, unfortunately however, my bike was tipping to the right. My right foot remained firmly locked as my bike toppled over. I slammed the ground. HARD. It took about five minutes for me to catch my breath and shake off the pain, but surprisingly I didn't cry.

Don't applaud me just yet because the crying was reserved for the next obstacle coming my way.

Right after we started to move again, we encountered a very steep climb littered with rocks, roots and rain induced mini-trenches. The unexpected timing of the hill left me without the option to clip out and walk my bike, so I was forced to power through and make it to the top. Those who know me know that I don't respond too well to being forced to do anything.

Cue the crying spell.

When I reached the top, Michael's smiling face was greeted with a fury I don't think he was expecting. My accomplishment was lost on me, and all I wanted to do was yell at Michael for blindsiding me with a super technical climb. I was overcome with adrenaline and unfortunately he was the only one I could take it out on so we rode the next mile in complete silence. Eventually I apologized for blaming him, but the ride had already lost any chance in hell towards becoming fun again. So we rode for another mile or so, I fell coming to a complete stop yet again (this time to the left) then we headed back to the car. Total bust.

The surprising part of this whole experience is that I really did love going clipless once we rode on smooth, flat terrain. I enjoyed not having to consistently readjust my feet to the correct position while also not having to pedal with as much effort as required with flat pedals.

So, I guess the lesson to be learned is that sometimes rides aren't fun. Sometimes the trail beats you up and leaves you feeling like a bike virgin all over again. Just remember that every ride teaches you something whether you kicked ass or got your ass kicked.


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