A few lessons from the bike

handlebars
Let’s get this ride started!

I can’t believe I’m writing this but…..I went biking today. Outdoors. It’s the end of November in Michigan and I’m biking outdoors. I love it! The reason I’m so surprised is because usually by this time of year I’ve retired my bike for the season, exercising indoors until the snow and ice melt. But Mother Nature has been nice to us this year. The sun is shining and it’s a nippy 45 degrees.

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I physically pushed myself today so am feeling doubly happy for the bike ride. I first attended a cycling class this morning at the local Cyclebar (more on this experience at a later date). These classes are intense, sweaty and fun! An hour of this fast-paced spin class burns my legs, and usually causes my knee to be a bit tender. But I walked in with the mindset that I would be going on a bike ride later in the day. So when I got home from Cyclebar, I changed, made a quick protein-packed lunch, rested my knee for about 30 minutes, then headed out.

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On a previous walk, I discovered a neighborhood close to me that is fairly quiet with not much traffic. I headed here and was again pleased with the very few cars that I encountered. Once I clocked a few miles, my legs loosened up and my body felt good (I may have been numb from the cold? Ha). For as tired as my legs had felt starting out, I oddly clocked some of my fastest miles. Maybe the cold motivated me. Or the simple pleasure of being on my bike.

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Some friends ask why I bike so much alone since I purchased my new road bike. For one thing, there has been great mental freedom and relaxation for me to bike alone. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, the strength of my cancer-surviving body, and clear my mind. It’s been a year filled with new challenges for me as I transition into a new chapter of life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happier in this new life, but I’ve still needed to let go of sadness and hurt, build my confidence, and think about the new paths I’ll be taking. Being outdoors helps me so much. However, I enjoy biking with others and also know I need to get used to biking in a group on longer and harder rides. I’ll get there. But since I bought my bike so late in the year/season, I feel it’s a great opportunity to get comfortable with my road bike and new pedals. I know I need to build confidence in myself and my ability to ride the bike – yes, it’s a physical comfort but ultimately for me, it’s a mental comfort.

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In biking alone the past few weeks, I’ve been able to pay close attention to my body and the bike. It’s been helpful to have this time to make adjustments and learn. For instance, here are a few lessons that I’ve recently learned:

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I am finally feeling comfortable with the new clip pedals, which is a great accomplishment as I didn’t think it would happen! I sometimes am startled to realize that I unclipped from the pedals without thinking as I come to a stop. And then I smile.

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I’ve discovered that I am much more comfortable turning right and taking tight right turns. I’m sure this is from being less confident in my left leg with the titanium rod and knee. So I found an empty parking lot and a cul-de-sac where I circled left again and again and again and….well, you get it. First, I circled with my left foot unclipped from the pedal in case I wobbled, then after about 20 circles, I clipped in and kept practicing. I feel pretty good about left turns now!

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I notice that I use my brakes too much on turns and downhill. I’m not talking about when I’m going really fast and need to slow down (because I’ve also learned that I need to have more confidence in my ability to be safe and fast), but kind of all the time. So today I made myself ignore the brakes a few times and, guess what? I survived the turns and the downhill ride on the way home.

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All of these lessons will add up to more confidence in myself, which will lead to more exciting times on my bike. And who knows? Maybe today wasn’t the last bike ride of the year for me. That thought excites me!

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