It hurts when I let something stop me in life, when my fear takes over. I dropped out of the 2018 Tour du Canada bicycle ride after three days and never got back on the bike. I knew this was putting a lid on my energy, and having me make far less of a contribution to people.
I stewed and moaned and succumbed. I created in my mind a dilemma that hovered over who I most deeply am. And finally, I said “Enough!” Finally was yesterday morning.
Thank God I’d chosen to get rid of the clipless pedals that have been a part of me for years. Basically, the cycling shoes attach to the pedals via a little metal cleat on the sole, so that I’d have stability and power. Sadly, most of the time I managed neither. I was in the bike shop a few days ago trying out new and improved pedals. I sat on the device that keeps a bicycle steady (a “trainer”) and tried over and over again to clip in. My bike guy even took hold of my foot and set it in the perfect spot for attachment. Only with his hands on could I get the job done. Not a single time on my own. So I took ta-pocketa home with flat pedals on.
I was so nervous in the morning, with horrible memories flooding back: getting my cycling shorts caught on the saddle repeatedly while a crowd of TdC’ers looked on, encouraging me; falling I think four times on my three days of the ride, accompanied by various gashes on my legs and arms; feeling the wind of the semi-trailers two or three metres away as I worked on creating a rhythm; getting stuck in too hard a gear as we climbed a long bridge near Vancouver. Oh … major yuck!
First, put your bib shorts and jersey on. I chose a dragon design. The beast was not me – it was an insidious outside force that was ready to pounce. The clothes felt vaguely familiar and immediately strange. Had I moved so far away from being a cyclist?
Fanny pack, house key, helmet, full water bottle. I took ta-pocketa out of the garage and pressed the button to close the big door, exiting by a human door. Good … all locked up. But where was my fanny pack with the accompanying key? On the hood of Scarlet, I remembered, safely ensconsced in said locked garage. I bowed my head. A detail that at other times would be ho-hum looked like a game breaker. After a spurt of angst, I remembered that a spare house key sat under the Buddha on the back patio.
I had taken off the handlebar mirror at the bike shop when I offered to transport a woman’s bicycle on my rack to her home. I now replaced my navigation device but I couldn’t remember how it fit on the handlebar. Ten minutes of anxious fiddling and it finally looked sort of okay.
Driveway. Street. Right foot on right pedal, ready to push off with the left. Almost a year of absence from the unimpeded road. One very large sigh. Would I catch the darned shorts on the back end of the saddle … again? The answer was no. I was up and rolling down Robin Ridge Drive. My eyes were wide. I’d actually returned to cycling! There was a jolt of ecstasy and then I just concentrated like hell.
I rode for fifty minutes on country roads. There was a two kilometre stretch of really rough pavement, including a downhill section. I wobbled a lot. I steadied myself. Cars and trucks came close. I stayed about two or three feet from the edge of pavement – a legal maneuver but one that angers a lot of motorists. The memories were there. I kept pedalling. The quiet expanse of Yorke Line had me breathing again, had me flowing again. I didn’t experience any power in my dear legs but I was moving forward.
Back at the hacienda, there was no burst of joy. The insides of my body were vibrating. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. But I did it. I got on my bike again.