This is the third post where I am chronicling my attempt to get into cycling. If you missed them and want to catch up, read Part 1 or Part 2.
I apologize in advance for the fact that this post is on the whiny side.
Recently things with my bike have not been great. I was hoping that at this point in my journey (about 5 months in), I would be feeling much more confident than when I started, but recently that really hasn't been the case. I made the switch to clipless pedals in early June and, while I have been happy with that decision, I have gone through a fall-heavy period (at least compared to the previous few months which had zero)! Most of them have been minor, with the exception of the one that really scared me.
As I noted in back in my first post, I came into this adventure with an irrational fear of crashing. I was hoping that after a few falls I would realize that it wasn't all that bad and push that fear aside. Unfortunately, it seems that my falls have solidified that fear, rather than lessening it. Instead of a completely irrational feeling, it now has actual experiences to back it up. What's strange is that none of them have been nearly as bad as what I imagined, but that still hasn't helped my mental state. I think now that I have actually experienced falling, the anticipation of the next one has more behind it. And, as with anything, I think that anticipation is either far worse (or better) than the actual event in question. So before each ride, my nerves slowly build. I've noticed that I don't sleep as well the night before a morning ride and start to get nervous as the clock ticks towards late afternoon/early evening and my commute home.
It is not worries about clipping in or out that stresses me out, it's the unknown other obstacles that I may encounter. Will I have to maneuver around people running or walking on the path? Will I have to stop suddenly or go off the path if people won't move out of my way (which lead to my most recent spill)? What are the cars around me going to do? And let's not even talk about left turns. I try to avoid them.
Another issue is that even when I have one foot unclipped, I am bad at stopping. A lot of the time I end up taking a few little hops on my foot I'm putting down. I'm not really sure why this is, so I haven't been able to figure out how to correct it. As a result, I'm never 100% sure that I'll actually be stable enough to stop when I want and stay upright. This becomes even more of an issue when I have to slow down and stop on an inclined surface.
Because of all of these worries, I am tense a large portion of the time that I am riding. I know that this makes things worse, but I'm not really sure how to change. I need to get out of my head and just ride, but that's definitely easier said than done! They only time I feel really comfortable is riding around Hains Point where the road is wide and traffic is minimal. Yet I know that I can't ever significantly improve if I spend all my time riding flat loops. Plus, it's doing nothing to improve my overall confidence.
Rationally, I know that they only way to deal with all of these issues is to keep practicing. However, it's been hard to motivate myself to ride recently. And it's not going to get much easier after my tri on July 31, when I will be done with tris for the season and on to marathon training. It will be easy to choose other options for my limited cross training days when I know that riding has been stressful and leaves me feeling frustrated at myself. But part of me hates quitting and thinks that if I just work harder and ignore these feelings long enough, I'll get through this rough patch and come out feeling better on the other side. And this is one reason that I hesitate to toss my bike completely to the side for the next few months. This seems like the wrong time to walk away since "leaving" with a bad taste in my mouth will only make it harder to start back up again next spring. (That is, I suppose, if I actually decide to sign up for more tris next year!)
What do you do to get your confidence back in a situation like this? Is it really just practice, practice, practice?