I decided to hit the Five Star Trail with the bike today. Considered driving the bike in the car down to the trail, but it seemed like more work and I was feeling adventurous, so I just took off from my house. The trickiest part is the last little bit down a steep but short hill to pick up the trail, but I figured I’d walk it down that part.
Here I am – when I was done – actually. I learned yesterday that the helmet fits and stays in place pretty well on top of a cap. I had to dig out a croakie so that I could wear my glasses, as I had an eye appointment scheduled in the afternoon, and I was supposed to lay off my contacts for 24 hours prior. I haven’t done any workouts with my glasses on before, so that was a little weird.
Anyway, in my infinite wisdom, I thought I’d ride it down the short hill of my street, on the sidewalk. I realized immediately that I was probably not going to be able to successfully negotiate the right-hand turn at the bottom of the hill, so I tried to stop and walk it the rest of the way down. The problem is that I’m really too short for the bike AND it feels more natural for me to dismount to the right. However, that’s awkward because the orthopedic shoe is on my right foot. I tried to stop and step off to the left, into the neighbor’s yard which is elevated above the sidewalk a little bit. It should have been easier, but I miscalculated something and tumbled into the yard, rolling onto my back. Since I didn’t get hurt, it was absolutely hilarious to the point that I was disappointed that no one (that I know of) was watching me. Must have been a sight to behold.
After a few seconds of lying there laughing at myself, I rode without incident through the residential area between my house and the trail. Then I wisely walked down the last little steep bit to the trail, as planned.
The trail is virtually flat, which is good for me because it doesn’t require much in terms of shifting gears. So it was a good place to start getting the hang of it. First of all I should add that I enjoyed this outing far more than I expected. The last time I rode a bike, I remember hating it for some reason. I enjoyed being outside again, I liked the feeling of moving so fast (compared to running, it felt like flying), and I found it fun to shift gears so that I could either go faster or work harder to change things up throughout the ride.
Here’s the trick my dad came up with to help me remember how to shift on the right / rear gears. The big paddle makes it easier to pedal, so he told me to think of “The Big Easy.” Naturally, it couldn’t be that simple, and it’s the opposite on the other side, but at least it’s easy to remember what to do with the gears I’ll shift most often.
There are several places where the trail intersects roads, and there are signs at most of these intersections that say that cyclists are to stop and dismount. So I got to practice a bit. When I attempted to dismount to the left, I continued to be even clutzier than when I dismounted to the right, even with The Shoe interfering. I managed not to fall again, but I need to work on getting off (and on, really) the bike with more grace.
I rode out and almost back to where I picked up the trail, deciding on a different route to get back from the trail to my house. All of the options for getting back home are uphill, with at least part of each route likely to be too steep for me to pedal as a newbie. So I selected the way back that would require the least amount of walking the bike. For one, more riding, less walking would be more efficient. Also, although the orthopedic doc didn’t place any restrictions on my walking, it seemed smartest to me to not pick a difficult hill to climb on foot.
I hopped off the trail and walked the bike across the first intersection. Then the plan was to ride about 200 yards to a left-hand turn (which I’d walk across) and then ride up a slight hill, which I thought I could manage safely. That hill, maybe half a mile long, would take me back to my street. Because of the bend in the first 200-yard stretch of road, I decided to ride on the (level) sidewalk, thinking it would be safer. Well, there’s one little spot on that stretch that connects to an alley. I slowed down as I approached the intersection with the alley, but I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to stop, because of how lousy I am at stepping off the bike. I drive through this area all the time, I swear that I almost never see cars coming out of that alley, but – lucky me! – there was one today.
I probably would have been able to stop effectively if the sight of the car hadn’t startled me. But it did. So in trying to abruptly stop and dismount, here’s what happened:
Fortunately, 1) I didn’t hit the car, although I did almost slide into it as I went skidding down. (Note: The car itself was stopped by that point.) 2) I didn’t get hurt. (Maybe my ankle is slightly bruised.) The guy in the car also made sure I was okay and apologized to me – said he was looking the other way, or he would have seen me. I don’t think it was his fault at all. I should have planned to stop before that point. I was just being too lazy to want to awkwardly dismount again. Lesson learned.
Good news!: I actually like biking!
Great news!: I actually lived to tell this tale!
Neutral news: I will be driving the bike to the trail from now on. At least until I have more practice.