Before taking on the notion of riding 4,000 miles across the United States, I had to actually become convinced that I could get on the bike without killing myself. My dad is an avid cyclist, and after receiving a new custom-made bike for his 50th birthday, he offered up his trusty old Specialized "Allez" model to me. Of course it took some coaxing, which practically included a written contract that I would treat it as if it were my own child. After the initial shock, he agreed to get it fitted for me, including a new seat and new pedals. I had the impression that I would get the beginner's version pedals for anyone who is considering taking on the cycling realm seriously- pedals with stirrups. Slip those puppies in and out with no fear of being stuck to your bike for the hour or so you're on the road. What if a car comes swirving your way and you need to immediately abandon the bike in order to avoid massive injuries and almost certain death? First off, this was not an option seeing that leaving the bike to fend for itself was an absolute sin in my Dad's book. My Dad also made sure to explain that "everyone knows that real cyclists go straight for the clip-in pedals because they give you a better turnover rate. You'll be fine." After spending all of my future birthday money on cycling clothes, shoes, etc. (cycling is not a cheap sport by any means) and getting a few turns on the "trainer" with my snazzy new silver bike shoes and clipping in and out, the bike store owner said I was ready to go. "You look like a natural." Uh huh.
Fast forward a couple weeks. I was living in my friend's apartment for the summer since she was abroad and I had a class to take in DC after work each day. My Dad manages to get the bike shipped to me after I got back to finish up for the summer. After getting it all put back together at a Joe's Bike Shop (http://www.mtwashingtonbikes.com/home.aspx) I was itching to try it out.
One morning, after spending a long night of twisting and turning in bed and then on the couch, I decided that it was absolutely useless to try and sleep for the next couple hours. At around 5am, I was looking for things to do- the laundry was folded, I had eaten an early breakfast and the gym didn't open until 6am. Having watched an entire collection of "Sex and the City" episodes over the past several weeks, I was out of things to do. I looked over at the bike. It was propped up nicely against the dining table, it's shiny blue frame was beckoning me to take it out. Unfortuantely, it was still dark outside and I had still not learned how to use the clip-in pedals well enough to take her for a spin. Therefore, I decided to do the next best thing- practice clipping in and out of the pedals, just as the store owner back home had instructed me to do. I opened the shoe box and slipped into my bike shoes, still wearing my pajamas and looking a bit ridiculous with the silver shoes to match my flannel pj shorts. I put the bike between the doorway to the kitchen and the living room and straddled the crossbar. I shimmied up onto the seat and rested my right food onto the pedal beneath, then pushed it down and forward to clip in. Holding myself on the bike via the doorframe, I clipped in my left foot.
I was stuck.
Oh crap oh crap oh crap. How do I get out? I remember I was supposed to twist my ankle in order to unclip, but for some reason it wasn't budging.
The bike begins to slowly roll back and out of the doorframe, with me still attached. Before I know it, I'm struggling for dear life to avoid crashing to the floor. I reach for the edge of the dining table, but don't quite make it. The bike begins to tip and my shoes won't move!
Within those few precious seconds, I realize that the floor beneath me is hard wood and hardly forgiving. The inevitable hits me...literally. I topple sideways and feel my defense mechanisms give up as I hit the floor, with the bike still below me. However, my foot has finally come undone and I scramble away from the scene, the bike still lying on the ground, abandoned.
It took me another month and a flashback to my childhood in order to get back on the bike and learn how to clip in and out without leaving unsightly bruises on embarrassing locations. While at the beach with my family later this past summer, my Dad held onto the back of the seat and I learned how to pedal with my new shoes and clip-in pedals. The neighbors across the street clapped for me as I finally learned how to tame the beast.