A Bicycle Built For Me – Part 3 – Triathlon anyone?


You know what they say about falling off a bike (or is it a horse). Anyway, you’re supposed to get back on right away.

So the next day I did another round about in the subdivision. It was a longer trip this time. Felt o.k. Then I got bold. “I should try riding on the main street,” I thought to myself. “How else will I get anywhere outside of this suburb.” Without thinking further I make a quick turn to the left, then right onto a busy street.

It’s one thing to say you should drive your bike on the same side of the road as traffic going in the same direction. It’s another to actually do it. The cars were coming up behind me. I started to panic. Not knowing if the car behind you will push your bike into the ditch or across the street into an oncoming car can be scary.

I felt my heart rising into my throat. I was swept away by a wave of panic. Caaann’t Brreeath…”Don’t!” I told myself. I manage to turn right, ride a bit further, then turn right again and I am back in the subdivision. I am in my driveway. I put the bike away.

I don’t ride the next day. Instead I ponder how I’m every going to get out of the subdivision if I can’t ride on the street with traffic. I drive around in my car and see people riding their bikes on the sidewalk. It may not be legal, but they’re doing it. “I can do that,” I think.

I am driving to my health club becoming hyper aware of all the sidewalks. One on the left. One on the right. None there.

The next day I put on a backpack and head out on my bike to my health club.

I have my MP3 player playing quietly into my ear to calm myself but I am slightly panicked about the thought of having to stop – slowly or suddenly. So far so good…Then I see it. There’s another bike rider heading my way; a young guy, no helmet (yes, I’m wearing mine this time and my head is a sweaty mess but I’m doing the right thing). I decide to stop and drop. I don’t fall. I wait for him to pass. Duh, dork. But at least I didn’t fall.

Further along the way there’s a young woman walking on the sidewalk with her back to me. As I get nearer I say, “excuse me” then mumble about being a bit shaky on the bike. She smiles and lets me pass.

I arrive at the club hot, sweaty, my heart beating loudly and my limbs shaking but I am elated! I lock up my bike, take out my gear and go inside. I want to tell everyone, but it’s the long weekend and there are fewer than a dozen people there and I don’t know any of them. Oh well, I know I did this.

I do a stretch and weight workout, then 20 laps in the pool. I get dressed, put on my helmet and go out to my bike.

“I really should take a photo of this for the blog,” I’m thinking. I take out my Blackberry and hold it way out in front of me and snap a photo. I get the top of my helmet. Ugh! I try again, and then I hear someone say “What are you doing?” Boy, he’s going think I’m nuts but I explain and he says, “Let me take the photo!”

“Alright, I say, but don’t make me look bad.” I feel ridiculous and I’m sweating in the heat but I need to pose for posterity, otherwise who’s going to believe I really did this?

He takes the photo. We talk about my blog. I give him the website address. I start walking away and say “don’t watch me please.”

Later he posts on my blog, “I know I promised to not watch you ride off, but I did :). You look very good on a bike.” I take that as a compliment.

When I get home I think, “I just did a triathlon” – bike, workout, swim (bike again). I post it on Facebook and get several LIKEs. I am really proud of myself. So proud, in fact, that I get on my bike the next day, ride to the gym, swim and ride back home again.

The entire bike ride is much more relaxed this time. I was not in panic mode…well, maybe a bit unsteady, but my heart didn’t beat too loudly. I think this is starting to feel normal. I hope that this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between me and my bike.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me.

8 responses »

  1. Keep it up, Suzanne. Urban bike riding is empowering. There’s nothing like whizzing by cars in rush hour. Even as an adult you feel like shouting “So Long, Sucker.” It will be a beautiful friendship. There’s really no doubt about it.


  2. Way to go Suzanne. I’m glad Virginia mentioned NOT wearing your MP3 player–you really do have to have your wits about you and be paying attention to the traffic and other noises around you. I don’t even wear mine if I’m walking on the roads/sidewalks. Taking up a new challenge at this stage in life is empowering. Good for you. I’d still be at the “I’m thinking about…” You just went out and did it. I look forward to reading more about this new passion.


  3. Nervousness can be one of the biggest impediments for cyclists and, worse, can actually lead to crashes and injuries. I think the local health authority has been running CAN-BIKE urban cycling skills courses in London, ON. If they can’t help, the Ontario Cycling Association can point you in the right direction for a “Cycling Freedom for Women” or similar course. Joining a local cycling club is a wonderful way to gain experience – look for a recreational club that welcomes beginners. There are also some great online resources:
    BikeEd. org http://bikeed.org/ (free, but to sign on say that you are from “Calgary, Alabama”)
    League of American Bicyclists 3-part Cyclist’s Eye View series:


  4. Way to go! I agree with the plan to ditch the music. You need to hear what’s coming :) Having said that, I have a tip that you might like; buy a good-quality rear-view mirror to attach to your handle bar. It makes life a helluva lot easier when you know what’s coming without having to twist around to look. Keep riding, you’ll love it more and more :)


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