TAT CN Header

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Clipless

For the past year or so, I've been working up my courage to transition to clipless pedals, and that process accelerated once I got my road bike.  Still, between cost and fear, I had a hard time making the leap.  After having a relatively smooth month financially and winning a $50 Alpine Shop gift card in a photo contest, I decided to go for it.

On the advice of some friends, I got SPD pedals and mountain bike shoes.  The mountain bike shoes have a recessed cleat, so they're easier to walk in, and having a pair I can wear with either bike saves me having to buy two pairs of shoes.  Another savings was that Craig had sent me a pair of SPD pedals back in the winter, so I only had to pay for one set of pedals. So, now I had pedals for both bikes, but I started with putting them just on the road bike.

Part 1: Road bike

photo.JPG
Not so scary, after all
Well, I didn't put them on, Wade did.  He and a friend of his were going to ride 25 miles or so that evening, and as I drove over there I decided that I wasn't going to ride.  Instead, I'd go home and put my bike against a wall and practice clipping and unclipping.  When he told me to ride down the street after getting the pedals on my bike and having me clip in and out a couple times, I looked at him like he was crazy.  I had made it into this big, scary thing in my head. 

As soon as I pedaled off, though, I realized how easy it was and felt so silly for being worried about it for so long.  I have to say, too...I love clipping in.  I feel fast.  I love wearing flip flops to a ride and changing into my bike shoes.  I feel like one of the club.  I've ridden about 100 miles clipless on the road bike and haven't fallen yet.  Now, that's not to say I don't think it'll happen; I'm sure it will.  Right now I'm really aware of being clipped in, so I'm thinking about it when I'm stopping and starting and unclipping in plenty of time.  Once I get comfortable and stop being so conscious of it is when I'll probably fall.

Part 2: Mountain bike
photo.JPG
Fascinating pictures, I know :P
After realizing how easy the new pedals were on my road bike, I started thinking about making the move on the mountain bike, too, and decided I wanted to try them out and see how it went before Saturday's mountain bike clinic.  On Sunday, Wade switched over those pedals, and I made plans to go ride at Indian Camp Creek Park with Chuck.  It's fairly close to him and an hour drive for me, but I'd heard it was a fairly beginner-friendly park...exactly what I needed for the trial.  My plan was that, if it didn't go well, I'd ask Wade to switch the pedals back before the clinic.

Wednesday afternoon, I met Chuck, Megan, and her friend Rob (Ron?) right on time (for once).  Since the temperature was hovering around 100, I made sure to bring plenty to drink, and this time I remembered to bring some food along with me, too.  Once we were riding, I realized what I'd forgotten: my bike gloves.  They were in my car, so I figured maybe I'd grab them after the first loop.  Chuck led the way, followed by me, and then Megan and Rob behind me. 

It's pretty rare for me to not automatically go last (I just assume I'll be the slowest); not sure what got into me there.  Megan is military and just coming off two straight weeks in the field, so she was pretty worn out.  Even though she can normally ride circles around me, it was nice to not be the one dragging way behind for once.  The trail starts out fairly flat and winds through a wooded area near the namesake creek.  Just like on the road bike, I had no trouble getting unclipped when we stopped.

It was when the trail started to climb a little that I realized the main problem.  I do just find unclipping when I know I'm going to need to; getting unclipped at the last minute when you run into trouble is a whole different thing.  I had a couple minor falls on the first loop, both at very slow speed: once I toppled over against a rock outcropping and once I started falling when I didn't clear a root but -- where there's roots, there's trees! -- caught myself against a tree.  Once I started anticipating where I might get into trouble and being aware of where I might need to put a foot down, I did a little better getting unclipped. 

It was super hot out, so we took a break to soak ourselves at a faucet, and then after the first loop we all went down to the creek and sat down in it.  Megan had caught a second wind towards the end of the first loop and was feeling better decided not to push it, so she and Rob took off and Chuck and I headed out for a second loop.  The second trip around was good, too.  Chuck still had to wait for me here and there, but overall I kept up better.

In fact, towards the end of the second loop, Chuck waited in vain for me to fall on a hill watched me climb a slight, rocky hill where I'd had to put down a foot on the first loop and then told me, "I have something you have to put in the blog: You have really improved.  We're riding faster than I ever have with you, you're picking good lines, and you're not falling.  I think the end of your mediocrity is in sight." (He wasn't being mean...I'm always talking about doing new races and how I can be mediocre in lots of things.) 

It can be hard to see your own progress sometimes, but I know he's right.  I'm definitely more confident and less inept than I was even a couple of months ago...and that is a direct result of having friends who are far better mountain bikers and yet still nice enough to let me slow them down ride with them.  So, thank you Chuck, Patrick, Robin, Traci, and Wendy; if I don't break my neck on the singletrack, it'll be because of all of your patience with me.

We finished up our second loop with a slightly different route than the first loop so that I could see the section of trail they use for part of the race course out there.  There's a downhill stretch followed by a field path that runs alongside the road.

This picture is from Broemmelsiek Park, but you get the idea
Ah, the field path.  At Broemmelsiek, I stuck primarily to the grass rather than the dirt rut because I was worried about sliding on the side of the rut and crashing.  I did that for most of the field stretches at ICCP, too, but here in the last quarter mile of our ride I decided, Hey, I'm just out here practicing, no pressure, I'm going to see how I do staying in the rut.  That's what I did for a while, but then it got a little deeper and made me nervous, so I decided to get out of it.

Whereupon I immediately crashed.  Hard.  Apparently I make entertaining sound effects when I'm falling; I don't remember making any noise, just landing on my shoulder and then my head.  While I've appreciated the nice dry spell we've had for letting me get in lots of good riding time, it sure made for a hard landing. Good news: the new helmet works great.  Bad news: I wasn't wearing shoulder pads, too.  I sat there for a minute or two and tried not to cry or throw up. I don't know what it is about getting hurt, but it makes me nauseous. 
Being back on the bike and having the wind in my face felt better, and I took my time loading everything up.

photo.JPG
My whole left side was covered in dirt from the fall.  The other pictures actually show the dirt better, but this is my favorite one of ME, so that's what you get. :) ...and even though I look a little like a yeti, that's dirt on my arm...not hair.
Thank goodness I had some ibuprofen in the car; even with it, the hour drive home sucked because moving my arm at all made my shoulder hurt like hell.  By the end of the evening, Google and I had diagnosed me with a separated shoulder, but a few x-rays later, my doctor confirmed that all I have is a banged-up shoulder and a touch of hypochondria. :)  She told me to take it easy for a few days, but somehow I got talked into going to crit practice tonight and riding 25 miles.  It was all road riding in a 1-mile loop, so I got to practice my turns lots of times...and since they were all left turns and that was my injured side, I had a little extra incentive to stay up on the corners. 

15 comments:

  1. You are the unreal one! Riding two types of bikes with clipless pedals. Showing vast improvement. Falling as you are improving, getting injured and STILL riding! Wow! You are an inspiration.
    I am still waiting to make the leap to the clipless. Today - actually yesterday I bought a bike shirt (first one) and new bike shorts on sale.
    I am thinking I want a road bike next year and am prob. waiting to get clipless pedals with that rather than get them now. Too many decisions. But maybe I should get the shoes on sale.
    But wait, I also just ordered a hitch for my car (expensive) and then will be getting it installed (expensive) and then will be buying a rack in case I ever get my husband to bike with me and my other friends. So I guess I better wait.
    This is one costly sport.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Glad you made the transition to clipless so easily. You see why I don't bike...:) I'm just a softy I know.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are so hardcore! I ride my road bike clip-less but never my mountain bike, still too scared!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just remember that clipless pedals (or the lack thereof) will not cause or prevent a crash. Sadly, that's all due to rider skill.

    Now that you gotten the crashing part down, next step is CYCLOCROSS!

    ReplyDelete
  5. You are one hardcore SuperKate! Your progress on the bike has been so amazingly fast and you are just always out there for every opportunity. You definitely inspire me...I'm in awe that you actually were back out there the same day :) Go Kate!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have yet to fall but I know it is coming.

    I think you are called "Super Kate" for a reason....you are willing to try and take your lumps.

    Also, good on you for having bike buddies who are honest and pass along praise when warranted. Nothing like an honest opinion to keep you humble or lift your confidence.

    Have a great weekend, fly straight!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. "the end of your mediocrity is in sight" - that is both funny and exciting!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Awesome progression! I'm afraid of clipless...and mountain biking:) Glad your shoulder was not badly hurt.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love my clipless pedals but I can't imagine using them on a mountain bike. It's those last minute unclippings that are the hardest! Mine have gotten quite a bit looser though, and rather than tighten them up, I'm enjoying being able to unclip a little more easily. I may have a little to much give in them right now, though - I'm just hoping they end up causing me to have any knee issues.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nice work, Kate! I'm so glad you weren't injured seriously. And I may have to withdraw my invitation to race Checkpoint Tracker Nationals with us. We may slow you down too much.

    ReplyDelete
  11. You guys...I'm so not hardcore. I'm the biggest, most timid wimp you ever saw.

    Wade, I'm DYING to try cyclocross, but I've got to wait a year or so before I start bringing up and new types of bike, or my husband will leave me.

    And Luke, too late. And, speed is a very relative thing. I was just worrying the other day how much I'd slow you guys down.

    ReplyDelete
  12. So impressed! I am totally chickens*** to get "locked" onto my bike :P

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm glad you're (mostly) okay after that fall - ouch! I would never be brave enough to clip in to my mountain bike. But I'm also not brave enough to really use my mountain bike on trails, either. You are a rock star!

    ReplyDelete
  14. A fast transition, congrats. I didn't succeed. I tried the clipless but I was too scared to fall. But ... you are superKate!!!
    Glad that you have such a big smile after the fall.

    ReplyDelete