This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Monday, August 25, 2003

I Suck at Cycling... A Setback

On Sunday, I took the bold move to participate in an intermediate ride. I emailed Leilani in advance to ask whether it was appropriate for me to participate since I was a beginner. She said that the ride was open to all and the course was flat and fast.

We met at the McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park, a popular meeting spot for runners and cyclists. Fiona led the ride that day, along with Scott, Leilani's fiance. Leilani was not able to join us.

As soon as I saw Fiona on her bike, I knew I was completely out of my league. She had a beautiful Bianchi complete with aerobars and a speedometer. Both she and Scott will participate in Big Kahuna Half Ironman in two weeks.

For the first part of the ride, we went through Golden Gate Park, half of which was closed to traffic (no cars - woo hoo!). We took John F. Kennedy Drive and veered right to end up at the Great Highway. The Great Highway is a popular route for cyclists because there are not that many cars and it has a separate biking lane. Even so, one of the tri club members fell on the highway the week before and injured her knee. Nobody knows what happened exactly: the two most popular theories are that she may have slipped in a patch of sand and/or got her tire stuck in a narrow crack on the road. Whatever the reason, my heart rate went up about 5-10 beats per minute upon hearing about it.

Because of the accident, we did not ride on the road, and instead rode on a parallel path next to the highway. It was filled with walkers, runners, rollerbladers, and also other cyclists. We countered only one or two traffic lights along the way, and of course I fell trying to get onto my bike after the light changed for one of them. Somehow, I was able to leap to the side and land on my feet.

We took a left at Sloat and then a right past the parking lot to Lake Merced. There's a nice loop (no cars again!) around the lake that we biked around once before heading back towards the Great Highway.

On our way back, we had to go up a little hill. I walked my bike across the road and then toppled over while trying to start cycling. I landed on my side, but since I took the hit on my butt, I suffered minimal injuries. It's one of the few times I'm thankful for having a naturally well-padded rear. The truly embarrassing thing is that I knocked Scott's bike over and may even have taken Scott out in the process. Scott wasn't actually on his bike at the time (thank goodness). He was standing on the side watching me trying to get on the bike.

Fiona asked me how I was getting on my bike because I seemed to fall a lot in the process. I told her that I first backpedal with my right foot so it's in 2 o'clock position. Then I push down with my right foot (it's not clipped in) and then simultaneously move backwards to sit in the saddle. She said that by doing so, I'm putting my body in an inherently unstable position, causing me to fall.

The correct way, of course, is the methodology D taught me: you clip in with one foot (say the right foot), backpedal to 2 o'clock, push down with the clipped foot, start cycling, and then sit down only when you're balanced. I hate it when he's right! Of course I can't do any of this because my balance is atrocious and the idea of clipping in from the get go is extremely frightening. To make things worse, I'm also making life more difficult for myself by (1) wearing a massive backpack and (2) starting to cycle in a "hunched" position. Most people start off in an upright position with their hands on top of the handlebars - one of the things I've been meaning to practice.

I eventually made it back to McLaren Lodge in one piece. I was grateful and appreciative that both Fiona and Scott were so patient with me, but I was beyond embarrassed for making them suffer through such a terrible ride. I won't try tackling that again any time soon! I have to first spend some time in an empty parking lot with the ol' Rollerblade pads to practice how to mount and dismount my bike. Back to basics. Real basics.

After this distressing turn of events, I became even more depressed when I saw this web page on choosing a bike for triathlons. Right at the bottom, the author writes, "It looks foolish to show up on an expensive, top-of-the-line bike if the engine (you) is not powerful enough to make it go fast." *sigh* They might as well have put my photo next to that sentence.

Since then, I have been desperately searching for beginner cyclist support groups and have finally found a promising one called Bay Area Velo Girls. As the name suggests, the rides are for women only, which is easier to foster a more relaxed, encouraging atmosphere for female riders. Not that men aren't supportive, but the dynamics are just different when they're around.

There seem to be cyclists of all levels in this club. They range from complete beginners (like me... I hope?) to racing speed daemons who burn serious rubber. I'm going to try their 30-mile "no-drop" Sunday ride this weekend. They stop & regroup every 15-20 miles, which allows the slower riders to rejoin the faster riders, and a designated sweeper that rides at the back of the group to make sure nobody gets left behind. It's only Monday and I'm already very excited and looking forward to the Sunday ride. I think cycling with a bunch of other ladies will be fun, safe, and provide an opportunity for me to pick up some cycling tips.

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