Imagine Northeast Iowa

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First Clipless Ride
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First Clipless Ride

I had a somewhat rough start to the week plus with the weather turning back to cool and grey, my internal moral low. I was feeling antsy and nervous because there is a lot on my mind these days, and the best way for me to get through it is by biking it out. I’m sick of the chilly weather and the days have been so windy, however, riding on the trainer just didn’t appeal to me. I’ll admit there was a feeling of uncertainty, and this is because I wanted to go on my fitness bike: Captn’ Johnny.

Why did I feel uncertain? Because this would be my first time riding clipless outside in the “real world” and I wasn’t sure what would happen. I’ve been able to practice clipping in and out on the trainer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean instinct and natural grace kick in. No, of course not! I’ve been doing some interviews for my blog and have read great suggestions made by individuals who ride clipless. I figured today would be a good day to try out the trail, if I failed at any point, hopefully the weather would be enough to deter a lot of trail traffic.

I dressed and proceeded to head out; I felt a bit clumsy and wondered “How the heck do I get started?” I ended up leaning into the side of the garage while trying to figure out how to get going. Graceful. I kept these words in the back of my head “You can ride even if you aren’t clipped in.” This is especially easy with the SPD pedals on Captn’ Johnny. They have a clip in side and a flat pedal side, so you can start off on the flats, flip the pedal, and clip in when you’re ready.

I headed out and decided I would stay clipped in on one foot while out on the streets, figuring it would keep it easier for me as a complete newbie. Once I got to the trail I clipped in completely, and then the gusty winds decided to play a more major part rather than a minor role. Fantastic.

When I came to my first switchback climb, I was amazed as to how easy it was to just, well, climb. I may now be a hill climbing lover for all I know. I felt pretty awesome and realized that this is one of the benefits of the clipless system. You get more out of your pedaling than you do when you aren’t clipped. Your leg makes a full rotation rather than a “U” and you get more strength and power from each push. Wow!

The wind sucked, plain and simple and it really is exhausting sometimes when all you get are windy days to ride. I figure this will be good for me if a century ride does happen; it might be the windiest day in the whole world and I will be able to persevere from all of these blustery ride days. I consider it part of my training and I will not stay indoors when the weather is nice, even if it is windy.

Captn’ Johnny received some upgrades last year that I was getting to experience today, like the new wheels with slightly narrower tires (faster!) and the King hubs (buzz buzz!) It’s fun when you’re going downhill and get to hear the angry bee sound, plus, it’s also going to be handy when I’m out and coming up behind people. I was surprised to see my speed in some areas when I could actually ride without the wind trying to blow me over.

I practiced clipping in and out a few times while I was out, just to get used to the motion and placement. I feel I have a ways to go yet before I consider myself proficient in the system, but as long as I’m not biffing it, it’s all good. At one point I had to spit, due to all of the phlegm that I accumulated with working my lungs so hard. Nice! It landed on my jacket sleeve. This would be a time when my step-dad would tell me in his gruff and joking manner “You spit like a girl!” That is also another thing I’m not very proficient at, however the wind didn’t help and I will blame that on this day.

My second moment of clipless riding that lacked grace and poise was at a stop sign that isn’t part of my planned route home. I usually get home by riding through some alleys until I get to mine, however there was a large delivery truck that completely foiled my plans. I quickly had to pick an alternate route which took me to an unplanned stop sign. I had to make a full foot-down stop since I tied with a car (due to my inability to track stand...yet) and suddenly thought “Gah! My foot!” I managed to unclip myself before I would’ve tipped over. I can only imagine what the woman in the car was thinking. “She’s crazy for being outside in this weather.” “What the heck is she doing? She shouldn’t be out on the road!” “Ridiculous.”

I managed to make it home just fine, unclipped and all, thankful for a ride that didn’t involve myself embarrassing myself publicly (yet.)


More about adventure, windy, clipless, bike, ride

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