It’s a beautiful sunny day. The wind is a bit gusty and brings with it an edge to the relative chill in the air but the sky is blue and the sun is out. You are gliding along the road, chatting with your ride partner. The hills haven’t been too tough, which is nice because you are riding your old school road bike.
As you come up to a stop sign, gently squeezing the brake levers, your left heel instinctively kicks out to the left to untether from your pedal … and nothing happens.
There is a moment of recognition: Oh junk – I can’t unclip on my usual side.
There is a moment of pause: precariously balanced as your bike glides to a stop.
There is a moment of desperation: a click of your right heel kicking out of the pedal.
There is a moment where you know your weight is already over to the left and there isn’t time to shift it to the right.
nope – you’re going over.
The fall is in slow motion – first the bike leans into your thigh, gently pushing it outward. The tethered ankle contorts and stretches as your knee bends to accommodate your top tube. Your hands somehow remain on the handlebars as you relinquish control and simply allow gravity (and the road) to embrace you.
* * * * *
I haven’t fallen off my bike in a long time – over a year at this point. It felt like slow motion and I ended up not with the usual abrasions or light road rash but with a twisted ankle and pain radiating up my calf. I took a few minutes to walk around a bit before we hopped on our bikes again and finished our ride home. Once I had showered, I spent time icing and elevating and picked up an ACE wrap. Seems to be a minor ankle sprain coupled with a nice bruise on my calf where my bike and I landed.
Like many in this country, we’ve been dealing with a vicious Arctic cold this past week. Sunday seems so far away – a “balmy” 30 degrees when I set out with my daughter in search of a parking lot we could ride around in while she gets comfortable with her bike. We bought it for her last year as a birthday gift, just a touch on the large side so she wouldn’t outgrow it too quickly. She’s now able to get the hand brakes easily and use her twist-shifters more effectively. I grabbed Lady Rainicorn and gave her a test spin, trying to figure out how to both turn and shift my downtube shifters and not fall over.
It’s not as easy when the only road bike you’ve ever had utilizes what is unimaginatively called “brifters” – brake shifters. My instinct is to just click the small levers with my middle finger. Downtube shifters are bringing me more in tune with my bike.
As I’m walking home from the train station tonight, it occurs to me that being a cyclist or pedestrian really puts you in tune with your world. You feel the subtle and not-so-subtle swells and depressions. Flats that are really slow and steady inclines or declines. You need to know the weather to prepare your attire accordingly. You can pause to truly enjoy a beautiful sunrise, sunset, or the way the light sparkles like glitter on the new-fallen snow.
You can always tell the folks who will hurry out of the train and into their parked car because they aren’t dressed to spend a length of time in the weather.
Back to the “new” bike. I’m realizing I need to be OK with a variety of things I haven’t had to worry about up til this point. Things like when to shift up or down, easing up on the pedals to get the front derailleur to guide the chain to the big ring … and back without dropping. Calculating when I need to shift on a hill or descent. Having HALF as many gears to work with in general.
The bikes are in the shop but once they are done, I’ll see you on the road!