Friday, May 13, 2011

Going Clipless: First Ride

I am beginning to think that winning the NYC Triathlon lottery is more similar to winning the lottery in that ___ short story where the winner gets stoned to death than to winning a million dollars. My quest to compete is bringing me closer to death than to money, anyway.

So as you probably know by now, I am a triathlete-minus-one. I tell runners that I am a swimmer. I tell swimmers that I am a runner. But to neither group would I ever deign to classify myself as a cyclist.

Thus, winning the lottery to enter the NYC Triathlon is pretty much the only reason I now own a Cannondale racing bike, complete with speedometer, tire repair kit, and—as of yesterday—clipless pedals. And to think, I really only wanted to buy a lighter-weight bike so I could carry it up and down from my apartment. . . .

Although I have owned the bike and most of the accoutrements since late last September, I only just bought clipless pedals (and the cleats and shoes to go with them) yesterday. I might have procrastinated even longer in making this scary, expensive (perhaps also scarily expensive) purchase had my caged pedal—the kind where you fit the front of your shoe inside a plastic cage and tighten a stirrup to keep it on—not broken on my last ride. Actually, the stirrup might have broken the ride before without my noticing, but when I got on my bike this last time, I quickly realized that the noisy flapping going on at my ankle was not an untied shoelace, but a broken stirrup. The entire thing had pulled free from one side of the pedal and was flapping wildly in the wind.

“This,” I told myself, “is a sign.” I had been meaning to get more advanced pedals, anyway, since my racing bike almost seemed to require them. Plus, if I wanted to get good at this sport before the race, I had better start practicing with the gear sooner rather than later.

With all of these factors in mind, I grit my teeth, took my Visa out of its vault (okay, make that out of my wallet), and sallied on down to the Grove Street Bike shop. Of course, I had to return to my apartment soon afterward, because they needed the bike in order to install the pedals . . . but as I said, I never claimed to be a bike pro.

Which leads me to today: my first ride with the new pedals.

For those of you who are as clueless as I was about competitive cycling, here is how clipless pedals work: first, you buy special shoes and cleats that you then screw into the bottom of those shoes. These cleats attach to special pedals, which you could never use with regular shoes. You get the cleat into them by sliding the toe of the shoe forward until the cleat catches the pedal; then, you push downward through a revolution to clip in the heel. Once you have done this with both of your feet, you are successfully attached to your bike. The bike and you are one. To get out, you have to twist your heel away from the bike to “un-clip.”

Sound pretty straightforward? I didn’t think so, either.

Here is the sum total of my first clipless pedal ride:
  • 5 falls while dismounting
  • 2 falls while mounting
  • 1 chain dislodgement (for which I had to ask for help from a man passing by on his bike)
  • 1 seat bent sideways
  • 1 skinned elbow
  • 1 pair of lost sunglasses
The scary part is that this list could easily include items such as:
  • almost hit by bus
  • collision with pedestrian
  • boken _______ (tibula/fibia/ulna/scapula/cranium/etc.)
  • broken bike!

So all in all, I guess I got away lightly with just a scraped elbow and sore shoulder. I am definitely going to have to take one of those bike repair classes, though. Because try as I might, I cannot get the seat back into alignment!


SD said...

Shirley Jackson. One of the few short stories that I enjoyed from English Literature class. A bit of foreshadowing, as later in life I would become a huge fan of David Lynch's films.

David Eng said...

I remember when I first got clipless pedals, the motion for getting out of them is really unintuitive. I spend a lot of time in a grassy field just getting in and out, falls hurt a lot less then!