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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Frustration (My bike and I - 3)

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?

13 comments:

Liz said...

After my one and only bad fall, I got right back on my bike after the wounds had healed. But my commuter bike is much sturdier than my road bike (so it feels safer) and I didn't clip in on that bike.
What actually has helped me feel comfortable clipping in during traffic rides (I used to feel like I was having a panic attack when I would ride from my house to Rock Creek on my road bike) was doing a few rides with my Dad. He is a much more experienced biker than I am, so I could follow him and watch when he would start slowing down and unclipping. He also showed me how to approach turns on gravel and other tricky things. I think some practice with an experienced biker could really help you! Plus riding with someone else feels safer.

Dash said...

Liz's comment is a great idea. I was also going to suggest finding a less crowded area, before I saw you noting you've been doing Hains Point. I was thinking going out to Leesburg and riding towards Purcelleville, where it may be less crowded. Of course, it's a long haul...

Hope you find a solution, I stopped biking due to the same fears once I got clips.

Morgan said...

I'm only just now getting in to the cycling thing as a result of my injury and I can definitely relate to your fear of falling. For now I'm not allowed to have clipless pedals until my stress fracture is healed but a part of me wonders if I'll be to scared to get them when the time comes because of all the fall stories I've heard. I wish I had advice for you but honestly the only thing I can say is what I keep saying to myself: Just keep cycling, just keep cycling... which turns to Just keep swimming, just keep swimming... in the pool. :)

Victoria (The District Chocoholic) said...

I think practice really is the answer, though it's not like I really know much about cycling myself.

Also, I have serious anxiety about lots of things, and find that I often displace anxiety about one thing (say, a work deadline) for another (DID I LEAVE THE OVEN ON AT HOME?). Might be worth considering.

lizardruns said...

I think I'm remembering correctly that you have an older bike that you borrowed from a friend, right? If so, I would go ahead and take it to the bike shop to get looked over for condition and fit. You should be able to stop! Newer bikes are easier to ride and shift and maneuver, and that might make a difference. Obviously, I don't think you should go out and buy a new bike, especially if you're so unhappy, but you could try renting a new bike for the day to see if that helps at all. I had a fall put me in the hospital and on crutches, but I'm back out there, and I hope you will be too at some point! Good luck!

Katie said...

yeah, i agree with the others about practice. i still tip over while stopping sometimes if i'm not paying attention. and maybe hook up with some more experienced riders like the first Liz said. i'd ride with you if we could ever get our schedules straight. :)

amy said...

I have that sometimes with my foot too, though I feel like it is more about just getting used to it v. needing to change anything though. I notice it more when I've taken a long break from cycling. I agree with Liz about fit though - it definitely couldn't hurt to get a full bike fit and see if they can make it better!

Are you riding this weekend?

Stephanie said...

I am sorry it has been difficult for you! Do you enjoy it at least? Because if you don't who needs it. but if you do, just keep at it. you are getting there even if you don't think so! i have probably asked you but what marathon are you planning on doing

Sarah said...

I agree with what everyone else said, that I think practice is the best answer. The more you are on your bike the more confident you will feel on it! Hopefully! I still have days that I just think I'm going to meet my death on my bike and on those days I might only ride a few miles and have to turn around. I do feel 100% better since my car crashes, so getting out there as much as you can helps so much. I hope you start enoying it soon :) I'm not here this weekend, but want to ride next week ?

Erin @ UntilYouTri said...

Do you ride by yourself a lot? When I was first getting back into riding last year, after a few months off and a few months off after a big crash, at that, I found that riding with other people, helped. When I had to keep up with someone it forced me to push past my tenseness. Also, if there was room to ride double and we coudl talk, that would help me forget about my fears, too. We should go for some rides when I get back from vacation!:)

Rachel said...

sorry things are still a bit rough with your riding. i'm going to agree with some of the previous comments - riding with someone w/ more experience and getting a proper bike fit/tune-up could be quite helpful. as far as stopping and clipless pedals, i've found that i have to come to a complete stop, not just slow way down, before i try to put my foot down otherwise i lose my balance and "hop" like you say. and lastly, maybe try riding just for the sake of riding, rather than to commute, so you can try some different routes and maybe have less pressure. hopefully things will start looking up for you soon!

amyreinink.com said...

I share your fears, so I'm either the ideal or the worst person to comment on this. I rarely cycle, but when I do, I cycle on paved trails. No roads. Period. The inconvenience of this rule is probably a major reason why I don't get on my bike more (and why I'm so impressed by bike commuters!), but I feel drastically safer that way. Good luck ... if you want it bad enough, I know you'll get over the fear hump!

momof3 @ Neurosis of the Stay at Home Marathoner said...

1) Relax. You're not going on the TOUR next week. No one is judging you except you. So the next time you go out on the bike I want you to do 2 things. set your self up for success, and end on a good note. I did this on my bike by going out at 5am. Not 5:15... 5. Because it seriously reduced the amount of traffic on the roads where I live. I stuck a lamp on the front of said bike and went.... and I came home at 5:30, after a great ride, and put the bike away. I could have gone for an hour it was going that well... but I didn't, because I needed to end on a good note.

2) I should forward you some of the e-mails that went back and forth between me & I my coach. The most memorable was "Dear Sensei ~ I suck on the bike. Please help. Sincerely, Grasshopper" My frustration level was beyond... yeah... Anyway, he suggested that I drop the resistance on the gears and peddle at a high fluid cadence on quiet neighborhood roads until I "got it". He said there would be a day that would happen. I doubted him, but did as he instructed... Have I mentioned how much I LOVE my bike now?

3) Office parks on Saturday/Sundays have notoriously ZERO traffic in them... if you have one near you, it's worth checking out.

Thanks for the comment on my hair. Yes, ask your stylist to "give you the best thing for your face" and go for it. Or drive here and ask mine. That's what I did... I gave her liberty. I figured she knew a lot more about hair than I did... Take care!