Monday, February 22, 2010

"It's Like Riding a Bike ..."

Cycling is like a cult. But a cult of the nicest variety. It's a whole other world, full of undercover cycling enthusiasts, who share a passion for a variety of riding styles. I was exiting the F train in Brooklyn - en route to my first cycling lesson - when an unassuming MTA Subway employee paused on the stairwell, looked my bicycle over and said, "All Shimano Ultegra parts. Nice".

My first lesson took place on Sunday morning in the living room of my cycling coach, while his wife - also an avid cyclist - tended to their adorable baby boy in the adjacent kitchen. Mixed babies are so pretty, and I'm not just saying that because I was one. Ok. I'm partly saying that because I was one. We began with the basics: an hour of clip-on/clip-off drills and pedal stroke form on an indoor trainer, and another hour of proper mounting and dismounting of my bicycle outside on an extra wide sidewalk, conveniently located across the street from my coach's apartment. Upcoming lessons will focus on gear-shifting, hill-climbing and descending, pacelining (including drafting and pulling), spinning and sprinting, street riding and endurance training.

My coach was kind enough to schedule our first lesson at 11am, in lieu of his 8am preference, since I was scheduled to work at job #2 until 4:30 in the morning. However, next Sunday we'll be meeting at 7:30am for my first street ride. I'm assuming that an earlier hour means that there will be less cars in the streets of Brooklyn. Luckily, I was able to find someone to cover my Saturday night shift at the lounge. And moving forward into March, I'll be scaling down my weekend shifts at job #2 to solely Saturdays so that I can begin implementing America By Bicycle's Century Challenge & Endurance Training program into my weekly routine, reserving the bulk of my weekends for long rides. I'm also looking forward to the progressively longer days and later sunsets so that I can cycle in Central Park after I leave the office at job #1.

I'm glad I waited to ride my bicycle under the critical and watchful eye of a professional. I almost felt a little ridiculous when I left R&A Cycles last month with a bicycle that I had no idea how to ride and a shopping bag full of pro attire. I put the entire outfit on when I got home and inspected myself in front of the full length mirror and my giggling roommate. Yep. A wanna-be cyclist stared back at me in the reflection. Or maybe that's what I saw because that is what I felt like.

Oh sure, I went through training wheels in my early years, and I remember my dad running behind me with a firm hold on my bicycle seat. I vaguely recall the exhilaration of those first moments when he let go and I glided off on my own with my handlebar streamers blowing in the wind. And I'm pretty sure my helmet was pink and probably had an image of Barbie painted on the side. But those were the days before Shimano STI Levers - or, at least, well before the days when I knew what they were. And clipping your feet into the pedals of a moving bicycle ... not as easy as it looks. Until you do it over and over again until it's as easy as it looks.

Insert a cash register *cha-ching* here. That's the sound of my cycling lessons being added to the official budget.

And insert a *whap* here. That's my wallet smacking me across the back of the head. 

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." - Albert Einstein


Terrence said...

All I remember about my first lessons a a child is running slap into a mailbox. My dad ran over, thinking I was hurt. I got up laughing and ready to try it again. I did a number on that mailbox though....but at least it was ours!

Helen Steussy said...

There is a wonderful comraderie among cyclists. Whenever I see a biker from the other direction he/she invariably smiles, waves or nods.

You will enjoy being a part of the cycling world.