Thursday, 6 October 2011



Sad confession: I started my first ride on the road bike half clipped-in, clinging to a light pole on Kendall's hill, refusing to move.

The problem was this: I was about to start my first road ride (speed, hills, cars) without ever having sat on a road bike before. Unless you count the night before, when I thought OH MY STARS I HAVE NEVER EVEN SAT ON A ROAD BIKE BEFORE and then spent about six white-knuckled minutes riding it on the flat.

Or I suppose the problem could be this: I'm really scared.

In any case, we'd just put our helmets on and Kendall was on his bike and I was straddling mine and explaining to him that I hadn't actually ever ever ridden a road bike and something about my concerns re: hills and what-about-cars and he just said– "You talk when you're nervous" and he rode off.

He rode off.

And did I do the sporting thing and follow?  Well, you know.

So Kendall is at the bottom of the hill (it's on a hill, his house... I'm supposed to start downhill??) shouting, Come on Helen and Let go of the pole Helen and Leetttt GO of the POLE Helennnn! for the whole village to hear, and I'm calling back various high-pitched lies like, Just a second! and I'm coming! and Wait wait I'm nearly okay! and vividly picturing myself dying in a bike-filled crash on Kendall's hill.

Eventually I pushed away, like jumping off a cliff (I thought) and although it took me a good block and a half to actually finish clipping in, we were away.

He had to shout at me a lot at first – mostly "Don't brake!" and "DON'T LET ME HEAR YOUR BRAKES" and "I'll know if you're braking" and "WHY ARE YOU BRAKING??".  But after a while I got the idea – don't brake on the corners, don't brake on the downhills, maybe don't brake ever, don't think on the climbs (what are you going to think about: somebody has set my legs on fire?) and you know, enjoy the spectacular German scenery when you're not visualising your own spectacular maiming.

We went far. We did long climbs. We went fast. Well, Kendall went fast (he loves danger, he asks danger out on dates) and I reached a max speed of 30mph on the downhill. Which is nothing to experienced cyclists. But – 30 miles per hour, people. Can you see me going 30 miles per hour without a car surrounding me??

Neither can I.

But it was amazing. And my handprints are still on the light pole.


  1. You went from refusing to move to 30 mph - that's pretty amazing!

  2. When I think about clipping my feet into pedals, it inspires me with the same claustrophobia as would wearing one of those old, brass diving helmets. I don't think I would cope well. Well done.

  3. ME TOO. I don't know why my subconscious believes that (in the event of a crash) I'd be able to spring to nimble safety *if only* I weren't clipped in, but it does. Deeply.

    Remind me to tell you about Rodalben some time. The start of THAT felt like tightrope walking in a straitjacket. So I threw a tantrum.

  4. I don't so much worry about an accident. I worry about stopping (for a tractor passing at an intersection, say)-- but instead of staying upright while I wait, toppling over sideways. And then writhing like a beetle on its back until I am found some days later. I have thought about this before.

  5. That is actually a much, much more likely scenario.

    And bravo on the tractor detail. You're practically local.

  6. Bravo Helen. I started having panic attacks just reading this.

    PS. Why is there no 'like' button for your comments?

  7. This sounds like me snowboarding. Well done!!