Thursday, April 30, 2009

The rite of passage into the world of clipless pedals

A few years ago I bought a brand spanking new mountain bike, and at the time they asked if I wanted the clipless pedals installed. The dialog went something like this

Bike sales dude: "Would you like us to install the clipless pedals?"

My friend (bless her forsight): "Nope, I don't think that's a good idea"

Bike sales dude: "You don't have very much confidence in your friend here eh?"

Me: "No she just knows me better than most people"

Well that afternoon we took my new wheels out for a spin, and after launching myself over the handlebars in the first ten minutes. And figuring out what happened was not me being dumb and hitting the front brake instead of the back break. But was merely me being inexperienced and clamping the back brake, and having my un-rotating tire hit a root and bounce me like a mechanical bull at midnight.

That aside the rest of the ride went extremely well, I was keeping up (relatively anyways) and we were on last section of trail before we made back for an apre ride beverage. I was bombing along after another friend of mine, when all of a sudden we came upon a little bit of the trail, where there was a tree on the right, the trail dropped oooh say about 5 feet steeply with a single large root in the middle (keep in mind my earlier root experience), and to top it all off the bottom of the 5 foot drop there was a rather nasty sharp turn to the right... and by nasty I mean if you missed the turn you would end up dropping at least another 10 feet into Mill creek.

I mustered all the riding skill that I had gained from the days ride, slowed down before the root, slowed down after the root... memory fades out... memory fades in... and I'm crouched on the side of the trail like a jungle cat, my left hand is still on my handlebar and it's the only thing counterbalancing my bike, keeping it from plunging down into the creek without me.

In retrospect the thought was maybe we shouldn't have taken you on such an advanced trail your first day on your new bike... and then the humour of the situation kicked in and we laughed as the mental picture of what would have happend if I had been clipped onto my bike sunk in. Without a sliver of doubt, I would have made it over the root and taken the drop like a hero and ended up in the creek bed... the only doubt remaining was whether or not I would have landed it long enough to unclip before a near drowning experience.

So despite avoiding the inevitable plunge into the creek my friend gave me an old pair of clipless pedal shoes to try it out and see how I liked it. This last week I started biking to work, it's downhill most of the way to work which means it takes me twice as long to get home. I was sure that the ride home would go somewhere along the lines of: *Wow this is really sweet, I get the pull and the push* ... *Holy crap what was I thinking yeah lets bike to work* ... followed by pedalling slower and slower in the lowest gear possible until I'm no longer going fast enough to maintain any forward motion and I just fall over on the side of the road, unable to unclip in time to stop the deadweight of my body... luckily I was wrong, I made it all the way home and didn't get run over.

I found out this morning that my timing was just off a little, I had a wicked mountain biking dream last night, and as I got ready to bike to work again, I stood at the top of the driveway and...

*clip* ... *plop*.

Yes that's right, failure to unclip. Perhaps I was overconfident of my ability, or tired from mountain biking all night... but I did not give the required uumph get my ass on my bike and be able to clip in my second foot. It was all there in perfect slow motion as I fell over thinking I seriously can't believe I just did that.

Of all the people I've talked to througout the biking world I have yet to meet someone who hasn't had a similar "failure to unclip" experience.

To this day that creek remains my best near-miss but nonetheless I am hooked. It hasn't turned into a burning obsession, but any time someone mentions mountain biking, or downhill my fingers start to sweat and I get a little bundle of excited anticipation in my tummy just thinking about it, and that's good enough for me!