First Ride = Success!

I got my road bike yesterday!

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Immediately after leaving the bike shop. Woot! (Photo, Nathan)

This is my first bicycle that is not a beach cruiser. My husband Nathan and I went to the local bike shop yesterday to see if the Trek road bike they had in stock would, indeed, be the right size for me. And the stars must have been aligned because it fit me perfectly; the only adjustment needed was the seat height.

I took a “test drive” in the parking lot out back. I wobbled a few times, and my dismount was definitely not a perfect 10. But I didn’t fall down!

This morning, Nathan and I went out for my very first ride. We went to the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail in Chesapeake, which is a straight and flat 8 mile two-way paved trail for walking/running and cycling only. Nathan (who has been riding for years, can easily go more than 20 mph, and maneuver his bike like a master) was very patient with me as I waffled around unsteadily the first half mile or so. He explained (and re-explained) the gears to me, which were definitely a challenge to get my head around, but when I finally understood, it totally made sense. We rode a total of 8 miles; I made my way up and down the gears, testing things out, and practiced using the hand brakes.

Here are my main take-aways:

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Dismal Swamp Canal Trail (Photo, Jaime)

– I should have worn the padded cycling shorts. I got a pair when we purchased the bike yesterday, but I wanted to see what it felt like to ride in regular workout pants first before I wore the padded ones. And now I know how it feels – it hurts. I felt it within the first four pumps of my feet; my sit-bones are still angry.

– I didn’t expect my hands to be more uncomfortable during the ride than anything else (even my sit-bones!). I knew that my hands would feel more pressure due to the forward-leaning angle of the riding posture, but I didn’t realize that my fingers would start to go numb. I’m glad I was wearing gloves, which helped reduce that. This discomfort was also partly caused by the fact that I was holding on (for dear life) to only one spot the majority of the ride, and not shifting my hand placement much at all. Once I feel more stable on the bike (and actually let go for more than a millisecond), my hands should be less affected.

– Shifting gears makes my feet bounce off the pedals. I am currently riding with regular pedals (and not clipless pedals, which have a misleading name because those pedals are the ones WITH clips – go figure) so my feet are not attached in any way. When shifting into a higher gear, there is a short bit of lag time before the switch and it makes the pedals stutter. By the end of the ride, however, I had learned to anticipate and therefore time the gear shift with my foot placement to eliminate the bounce.

– Getting on and off the bike is the most difficult part. Because the seat is higher than the beach cruiser I’m used to, I can’t sit on the bike first and then take off. When I’m sitting on the seat of the road bike, my toes barely touch the ground, which is how it should be. But that means I have to take off and land with my tush off the seat, with the bike leaning a bit so that I can put a foot on the ground. The only time I came close to falling today was when we got back to the car and I tried to stop and get off; my foot got tripped up by a pedal and I had to catch myself. So I promptly got back on and practiced figure 8’s, starting, and stopping.

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A selfie at the halfway point. (Photo, Jaime)

– My neck needs to get used to the new angle. The forward lean requires more effort in the neck muscles to keep my head lifted enough to look forward. I can still feel it, but I know it will get better (I had the opposite situation happen when I started interior design and had to look down while creating my drawings/drafting floor plans for hours on end).

– A road bike is so much speedier and nimbler than a beach cruiser. I knew this going in, but actually feeling it on the ride was awesome. Pushing up to 15 mph didn’t really take much exertion; don’t get me wrong, my legs were pumping, but the different gears make acceleration oh-so-smooth.

– The higher the gear, the more push I can get. Which is why it took me forever to get my head around the gear concept. The only gears I’m used to are from the several manual cars that I’ve driven in my life; with cars, the lower gears are where the bigger push is. But after testing the gears out on the bike, it clicked.

– I’m totally hooked. I can’t wait to ride again (with the padded shorts, of course).

3 thoughts on “First Ride = Success!

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