For the past couple of weeks I have had a road bike sitting in my garage. Like, one of those super fancy road bikes with the painful looking seat and handle bars that seem a little too low. I had been hesitant to ride it, and my first ride was supposed to be two weeks ago but we couldn't get one of the pedals off (the girl I'm borrowing the bike from uses clip on pedals), so our first ride was postponed until today. The seat felt absolutely too high and to say I was wobbly is an understatement. We rode around the neighborhood as I got used to shifting gears, keeping the bike steady, and going over 10 mph. There were some screams of "oh God I'm going to die," but Todd was patient as I panicked going down hills and fussed with the stirrups on my pedals. Once I got somewhat comfortable, we decided to hit the main roads.
The main roads were fine, all of those years riding to practice and class while going to school in DC definitely helped. After crossing Independence Ave, riding alongside the worst drivers in America, and dodging tourists on the National Mall, I barely noticed the cars as they passed by, which was a welcomed one less thing to worry about. We were biking in another neighborhood, and I had just gone down a hill without squeezing the brakes until my hand cramped up (ok 10 mph feels really fast on a bike), when it was time to go up a little hill. Todd said that this was the kind of hill that was easy to "hammer up," meaning I was supposed to stand up on the pedals and ascent the little hill. Well, I hammered up, and my bike started wobbling, and then it stopped, and then I couldn't get my feet out of the stirrups, and then I just fell sideways. I was fine, and actually it was kind of what I needed.
When I first started rock climbing, I was so scared once I got about 10 feet off of the ground because I was terrified of falling off of the wall and crashing to the ground. I decided that, at about 5 feet off the ground, I would let myself slip off of the wall to prove to myself that with someone I trusted belaying me I would not fall. So that's what I did, and after that I felt much more confident when scaling the walls.
So it was pretty much the same thing for biking. Once I fell, and I was ok, it made me not so timid anymore. Not that falling is a good thing, but it will happen. And it happened when I least expected it to: going about 1 mph up a hill. I absolutely wanted to keep going.
We went to our friends' house, but no one was home, so we biked more, going up and down hills, Todd giving me tips along the way. He even showed me part of the route for the Pascack Valley Sprint Triathlon. I was having a blast once I stopped worrying about falling and my adrenaline was pumping.
Todd said he wanted to take me on the same route that our friend's dad took him on their first bike ride together. We went up a small hill and he told me to try not to brake while we were going downhill, like I had been doing every time we went faster than 13 mph. The reservoir was peeking over the trees, the breeze was cool, and I felt great. So I didn't brake, and I went 21 mph, and I powered through a bend, and then down another hill at 21 mph, and then up another hill. I had never felt so accomplished in my life (ok that's a huge exaggeration but it was a really wonderful feeling). I loved feeling the wind in my face, my legs pushing me as I changed the gears expertly, feeling that deep burn in my quads as I pushed myself up the hill, telling myself in my head to not stop pedaling. It was great, I look forward to more rides and, in time, some rides on my own.