Monday, 23 March 2015

KIT PICKS: Going cycling pro with pedals & cleats...then falling off.

(my new cycling shoes and pedals - along with some lock laces I purchased for my triathlon!)

I've got fancy new pedals and shoes for the bike. They were an early birthday present from my parents. I guess you could say I have had a little voice nagging in my ear to man up and try them out. I cycle every day to work and also go on bike rides at weekends. Whenever I head out, whether on my commute or leisurely route, I am finding myself one of the few without cleats.

Since I got my bike eight months ago, I hadn't planned on getting special shoes. It felt fine with standard pedals and trainers but when I went on my big bike ride back in the New Year (which you can read about here), my friend, who wears cleats, was saying how beneficial she finds them. The motion of pulling and pushing helps to pick up speed and it eases the pressure on the legs which, without them, rely only on pushing the pedals down.

So when my parents came to visit me a couple of weeks back and suggested they get me new pedals and shoes for my birthday, it felt like a good time to delve into it. I opted for Look Keo2 Max pedals. No particular reason behind them other than the guy in the shop told me they were decent and my Dad was happy with the price. My only point was that I wanted pedals that weren't too small and these seemed a decent size. To go with the pedals, we purchased a pair of Louis Garneau's - in particular the women's Carbon LS 100 road shoes. Whilst the look of them put me off (I mean come one, they aren't the most feminine looking...), the dude in the shop did lure me in with the quick attach rail system. So basically, instead of Velcro straps, I have metal string on a loop that I tighten. It just means they are quicker to take on and off, which is great if I am going to use them for the triathlon.

In all, I was sorted. I left the shop with everything I needed and didn't hesitate to fit my new pedals and get going. I opted to head out early one Saturday morning (I went out at 7am to ensure the roads were quiet) and cycle around my neighbourhood to practice getting to grips with the clipping and unclipping of the shoes. It seemed straightforward and an hour later, I plucked up the courage to cycle to the train station where I took the train to Essex to stay with my future in-laws.

By the time Sunday came, I took the opportunity to head out on a 10 mile cycle along the quiet country lanes nearby. Half hour into the ride and I felt brilliant. "This clippy stuff is easy," I scoffed in my head. Ten minutes later, I fell. Not just a light fall onto the soft grassy banks on the outside of the road. I fell off a high curb into the road, hard, in front of a motorbike...

The thoughts that went through my head in that split second when I forgot to unclip and fell sideways into the road were 'I'm going to die!' 'the motorbike is going to hit me' and 'crap this is going to hurt'. Luckily, he swerved onto the other side of the road to dodge me and as soon as I cracked my shoulder on the curb, I sprung up from the fear and pain straight away. My bike chain had come off, my handle bar had bent inwards and I was looking a little worse for wear. Not cool. The man on the bike seemed more shook up than I did. Despite the pain, I felt more embarrassed than anything else.

The adrenalin from the fall made me pedal much faster home and by the time I walked through the front door, head hung in shame, my family had me in a hot bath followed by ice packs for my swelling arm and shoulder. 

Did it hurt the next day? Hell yes. I felt like I had been run over (which I could have almost been!). Every inch of my body ached and I had a nasty bruise on my right hand and shoulder. Have I falled off since though? No. What I've learnt is that no matter how much a fall scares you, you have to get back on the bike and try again. If you retain that fear, you will never find the courage to keep trying. Getting on my bike Monday morning to cycle to work, with the cleats, was terrifying but by saying over and over 'remember to unclip', I managed to get to work in one piece.

Will I fall off again? Probably. I mean, in reality I hope not but who can predict. What I can say for now is that I am not totally in love with my new pedals (yet) but I am hoping that with more and more practise, it will become second nature and I will start to see why this form of cycling is so much better for my speed.

Lipstick Runner.

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