Friday, August 3, 2012
Road Biking Barbie: Cuts, Bruises, Twigs & Pride Sold Separately
I thought I would tell you a personal story so we could get to know each other a little better. Actually, I thought I would go ahead and tell you all, my dearest readers, because everyone I’ve told so far seems to think it’s hilarious. I would totally find it hilarious if it happened to someone else. It all started some months ago…
Ken was starting to get into all of these activities. My activities consisted of watching trashy television and day-drinking outdoors with friends on the weekends. When Ken asked if I wanted to try doing some activities I thought, “You mean you don’t consider watching trashy TV and day-drinking valid activities?” But I take my relationship seriously and I thought, you know, it’s reasonable of him to want me to participate in at least some of these active things, as I have heard you are supposed to take interest in things you’re partner is interested in, and Ken always lets me watch whatever I want on TV (Keeper!) and he is always a willing day-drinking participant. Also, I had sort of by accident tried scuba diving last summer and I ended up loving it so much we got certified in Belize in three days and conquered a 60 foot dive which was totally epic. If I hadn’t gotten talked into trying, I would have missed out on one of the best experiences of my life! So I put my irrational fear of trying new things aside, and I declared my resolution to get active.
First I started running. That (shockingly) worked out rather well. Next I tried skiing, which has its own story we’ll save for another time, but that actually worked out in the end too! So a few weeks ago, after much talk on the subject, when Ken asked me if I would try road biking with him I said, “Sure!”
We went to our local bike shop that weekend. If Ken knows one thing for sure, he knows his Barbie is way more happy and inclined to not throw fits if she looks pretty. As long as I look like a pro, I don’t mind messing up every once in a while. Because then when people see you fall about thirty-seven times all the way down a snow-covered mountain, at least they think to themselves, “Oh man, that poor girl is TERRIBLE at skiing, but damn she looks good.” Ken’s mantra: Happy wife, happy life. So first things first, he had to get me geared up.
We walked in and ordered The Works. We had no idea what that meant, but we wanted it. Biking is EXPENSIVE you guys! We had to get the special shoes, special pedals (“What on Earth are those for????” I wondered), helmets, socks, and of course Ken bought me a gorgeous fancy white jersey with turquoise trim (pretty athletes who want to pretend they’re being taken seriously don’t wear pink, they wear turquoise), and of course those weird diaper-like padded bike shorts. All we needed were the bikes.
Because we’re both freakishly tall, they had to special order our demo bikes. We had to wait two weeks to actually ride. Ok, no biggie, we invited our close friends who are regular bike people for a get together on the planned demo day, which was last Saturday. We were to meet at the bike shop, and ride from Sausalito, CA to Tiburon. There and back it’s about twenty miles. No big deal, right?
Saturday came, and Ken was excited. I was, well, nervous. But also excited. But mostly about my cute outfit. And we were planning on stopping at a Mexican food restaurant in Tiburon, and I love margaritas, so that was exciting.
We started at the shop to get fitted on our demos. I walked in with a certain swagger one has when they look like a pro.
“Oh, this way to my bike? Ok, no problem.” Swagger, swagger.
*Names have been changed to protect the totally guilty assholes of this story*
Bike guy, we’ll call him Toby, wanted me to get on my bike for my fitting. I’m looking at the bike as he’s holding it up and I’m thinking, “You moron, just use the kick stand.” FYI, real road bikes don’t have kick stands. I should have run. I should have run like the wind to my comfy spot on my couch and turned on the Oxygen network and never looked back.
Another thing you may not know about road bikes is that the seat are positioned so high you can’t touch the ground with your feet. This is new to me. In the last twenty years, the only bike riding I’ve done is when I lived in San Diego, and that was from one bar to the next on Ocean Walk in Pacific Beach. The only challenge there is navigating around idiot tourists (mostly from Arizona, sorry Arizona), which I’d actually gotten pretty good at. So I’m looking at this real bike and I’m looking at this dude and then I’m looking at my adoring husband’s face lighting up like a Christmas Tree at this whole biking nonsense. I climb onto the bike. All the way up on there, and I sit, wobbling and nervous.
Toby says, “How does that feel?” I say, “Scary.” He laughs. Toby, I’m not joking.
Toby then proceeds to tell me how those weird little nubbins on the bottom of my shoes will be clipping into the tiny uterus-shaped pedals, attaching me to my bike. Now, let me just say, I sort of knew this was going to happen, but I didn’t really get it until this point. Toby goes on to explain that all I need to do to un-clip out of the pedals is to very deliberately turn my heel out in an awkward fashion to the right. He has me do it while he holds me there. I mean, sure I can do it while he’s holding me, but what am I going to do when he lets go and I tip over like a freaking cow???
Toby senses my fear and asks how I’m doing. I’m about to pee in my diaper pad shorts Toby, you?
“Ummm, I’m nervous and scared and uncomfortable.”
Toby, the misogynistic asshole that he is, says, “Oh yeah, everyone’s nervous at first, you just gotta get out there and try it a couple times, then it will be second nature.”
Well, I mean, if Toby is that confident, then why aren’t I? I sold myself short too many times. I was ready to go out there and learn this!
Our friends congregated in the parking lot. There were six of us altogether. Three girls, three boys. Please note the othes besides Ken and I are practically pros at this. I walk my bike out and express my reservations to the crew. Our friend Matt holds the bike so I can get on and tells me to ride around the parking lot a bit, and try to stop and start with the clip-in pedals. These are the most alien things you guys. Can you imagine? You know the dreams where you’re running and running as hard as you can but you’re not going anywhere? It’s kind of like that because, as much as you want to take your foot off the pedal and throw it to the ground to save your dear life, you can’t. You can’t! So I get going and, what do you know, beginner’s luck. I successfully start and stop twice without falling. Later we found out this was completely by accident, but at the time, it seemed like enough practice. Of course Ken got it right away, he’s good at everything. I both love and hate that about him.
We begin our Tour de Marin County and the beautiful day is swishing by with every pedal pump. The weather is gorgeous; we’re on a path along the Marina, the wind in our helmet hair, and the smell of activeness in the air. Suddenly I feel something touching my leg. I look down, and it’s my water bottle which had come loose and was hanging on just barely to my bike. If it were to take a dive it would interrupt my perfect pedal flow and I would fall. I had to stop. I yelled for Ken who was a ways in front of me. He stopped to wait so I could fix it. Knowing I had to stop and under little pressure from outside elements (we were on a bike path and few people were on it at this point) I was able to stop successfully. Woohoo! I am sooooo good at this. I fix my water bottle, in the middle of the path obviously because what’s my worry, this will only take a second.
I yell to Ken I’m ready to go, and place my left foot on my left pedal. I clip in. I push off and lift my right foot up, searching with it for the pedal. Suddenly, I realize I did not get enough speed initially and I’m slowing to a stop. I struggle to figure out what to do next as my balance shifts to the left, where my foot is attached to my bike. My right foot is flailing around, seemingly shouting, “Pick me! Pick me!” It was too late. My weight began to teeter, and the next thing I know I am falling straight over, on the left side where my foot is hooked in and helpless. I tip right over you guys, in the middle of the path, like a cow. Like a fucking cow you guys. Just, boom. Nothing I could do about it.
Ken’s shouting, “Are you ok???” as I take inventory of each limb. Ah, thank god they’re all still there. Now how the hell do I get up? Three bicyclists came at me and had to go around me as they chattered about my fall amongst one another. I should have tripped them, but I couldn’t, as my feet were either attached to my bike or searching for solid ground. When I finally finagled my way off the asphalt, I realized I was not that hurt. I had a scraped elbow and a sore left butt cheek, but other than that I came out fairly unscathed. With a new sense of invincibility, I threw my leg over the bike, told Ken I was fine, and set off on another attempt to start. This time I got a good enough get-go and I was off.
After the easy path, we ended up on a street. A real street with cars. Folks, I was nervous up until this point but throw in the car element and suddenly I felt like I was in the Miami Vice video game, dodging AK-47s and dead hookers. At this point, I am beyond over-stimulated. There is no “Think before you _______.” There is only, “SHITFUCKBITCHSHITIHAVETO______!!!!!” Generally the blank was filled in by the action of stopping. When not in a protected parking lot surrounded by my friends cheering me on, it turns out I was not so good at the stopping. The group had congregated to the side of a tiny path to re-hydrate. I could have killed them all. Is your water drinking more important than me making it to my margaritas in one piece you selfish show-off bastards??? That was the nerves talking. I try to pull myself together.
“Ok breathe,” I repeat the mantra in my head, “Simply jerk your right ankle to the right side while simultaneously pedaling with the other foot while you pump the brakes to slow yourself but while still peddling so you can eventually stand up on the pedals and lean over to the correct side as you…” CRASH.
Everyone gathered around to help me up. Embarrassed, I do the natural embarrassed human thing and pop up as swiftly as I can, bike still attached to my left foot, and flippantly insist, “I’m fine! No problem!” and then go on talking nonsense hoping my nonsense will make them forget I just ate shit, “Guess I didn’t quite make that, huh? No biggie! How ‘bout that water, eh? Wet, isn’t it. Well should we just go from here then??” They saved me by wanting to take a moment to shoot some pictures with the nice scenery behind us. The water in the bay gleamed in the sun, the mountains appeared majestic in their stability, and my body ached like a bitch.
(A shot of our group minus Keely who's taking the picture. Is my smile convincing?)
I was able to successfully start going again, praise the lord, and we were on our way. I hugged the curb as tightly as I could as I listened to drivers creep up behind me, take note of my complete lack of knowledge in bike riding, and follow me until they saw a chance to pass safely in the opposite lane. I knew these drivers, they were me. I’m the driver, not the bike rider! I’m the one behind the wheel of a powerful automobile, safely tucked into my comfortable seat, surrounded by airbags, enclosed by glass. I’m the one that takes note of the knowledgeable and non-knowledgeable bicyclists, the one that curses them as I pass, “Goddamn bicyclists take up half the goddamn road, think they own the goddamn world,” and now it’s me. Karma’s a bitch.
We rode through a park filled with other people on bikes, runners (whose feet got to be on the ground, how I envied them so), dog walkers, women with strollers. Each of my friends took turns hanging back with me, riding along side me, conversing with me to gage my level of tolerance, my level of sanity. Bless all of their hearts. I felt good when I was just riding. Riding I can do! The cars were nerve-wracking of course, but when I was riding, I knew they would go around me. As I rode through the park, I took in my surroundings. I was happy when I was moving.
We decided to ride a little past the restaurant where we were to stop for lunch. There was a road that wound up along the water which nestled beautiful homes along its cliff, and we were to ride up that. I was just happy we weren’t stopping. Every one of my riding mates asked me if I was alright with going further. I didn’t tell them, but I would have ridden Forrest Gump’s running trail straight through across the country if it meant I didn’t have to stop. I said yes. Yes please, let’s ride further. Wait, are there any stops? No? Good.
This was the best part of the ride. The two lane road was wide, and I never saw one car. With the water on our right, and beautiful homes on our left, the canopy of trees overhead provided an oasis, perfect for flying through. That’s what road biking really is you know. It’s like flying when you do it correctly.
Up the hills I rode, pumping and breathing hard at certain points, but enjoying that I was good at this part. Then I saw it. My group had taken the opportunity to stop at the top of the winding road in a small area off the path. I was going to have to stop going uphill?!?!?!?!
I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die. I’m dead. I’m gonna die.
But no! Our friend Matt was off his bike and was calling out to me. He was shouting, “Just ride to me!” and holding his arms out. I got it! He wanted me to ride to him and he would catch me and I wouldn’t die!!! And that is what he did. He caught me and held the bike steady and I was able to climb off of it with ease and without pain. It was glorious. I announced he was my hero. He said, “Yeah we formed that plan on the way up. I think we’ll do that at all of our planned stops from now on.” Did my ego kick in you wonder? They were planning how to help me not fall as surely I was going to fall?? The answer is no. I lost my ego about three miles back.
I actually rejoiced in this plan. I was so happy, and I’ll tell you why. I can tip over in front of other bicyclists on a bike path that are going to pass me in three seconds anyway, but I did NOT want to fall in front of the outdoor deck of the Mexican food restaurant and be known throughout lunch among the deck diners as “The Girl Who Fell.”
Lunch was my happy place. Finally I could give my nerves a rest. I could sit down and take inventory of my internal and external injuries. I could drink! Drinking makes you better at everything, right?
(Jess, Myself and Keely before lunch)
After a pitcher of Skinny Girl Margaritas and an hour of what can only be described as ass resting, I felt ready to embark on the journey home. With my new found liquid courage, I had hope that I could tackle this monster.
For several miles I pedaled like I was Lance Armstrong on a joy ride. I did a little zig-zagging, I tried to point out a nice home to Ken and nearly killed myself (but recovered), I waved at a police officer (so embarrassing looking back), I even came up to a stop light and pulled off a successful halt! Could it be? Could it be that I am owning this bike right now?? Have I made this bike ride my bitch???
Our group got separated at my successful stop light. Three made the light, three did not. Ken was in the group that made it, I was behind with our friends Keely and Jerry. My group of three were headed for a left hand turn lane to turn onto a fairly busy road. Just as I thought we were going to make it, the light turned yellow (SHIT) then red (DOUBLESHIT). With all the love in my heart, I began the process. I un-clipped, then placed my foot back on the pedal in order to get to my standing position. I slowed. I did everything right. Except when I put my right foot back on the pedal, unbeknownst to me, I had accidentally clipped back in without knowing. So when I gallantly threw my foot down to the ground to draw to a close my perfect stop, I threw my entire body weight and my bike straight onto the asphalt, clearing a cool two lanes as I skidded to what I thought was to be my death. Jerry sprung into action, helping me to the sidewalk and out of the way of the danger of possible oncoming traffic. My right hip felt like it had been hit square-on by a school bus. My elbow was raw and bloody, and throbbed in the sunlight as we stared at the injury. Jerry found the water bottle that was in my bike holder, which I had at some point thrown in a fit of frustrated rage (not sure when that happened, I think I blacked out momentarily) and squirted my gaping elbow wound with cold water. I did not cry you guys. I wept a little maybe, but I held off on crying. I didn’t want Jerry and Keely to freak out, and I didn’t want to let go of the pride I had been trying to clutch onto so tightly all day. I took a moment, got back on the bike, and we started off again.
(Elbow and Hip)
We passed the other three who had stopped to wait for us. I knew Ken would know it was me that something had happened to, that I was the cause of our tardiness. He watched as I passed him. I think he asked me if I was ok, and I just hissed at him. I literally hissed at him, mouth open, like an angry Avatar. We only had about two miles to go at this point. With every movement all I could think was, “Just get there. Almost there. I just have to get there.” That last fall had really done it for me. It wasn’t fun anymore, there was no more bright side, I just wanted to get off this fucking piece of shit machinery and stay off. I was so close I could practically touch the bike shop. My hips throbbed, my elbow was pounding and burning, but I was almost there.
As we approach the bike shop, I realize there is a sharp left turn you have to take to get into the parking lot area. I watch as my group, one by one, takes the left turn effortlessly.
Swish, there went Jess. Swish, there went Jerry. Swish. Swish. Swish.
And then it was my turn. I knew I couldn’t do it. I knew if I tried I would run straight into the pole located directly in the middle of the tiny entrance. I knew I was either going to run into this pole, or I was going to have to try this stop thing one more time. Having to make my decision in a split second, I went for the stopping.
Again, taking my foot off the pedal, I concentrated on getting to a position where I could introduce my foot to the ground. My feet so wanted to make sweet, sweet love to the ground.
Once again folks, I accidentally clipped back in. Once again folks, I threw my longing right foot to the ground to stop myself and, once again, I threw my entire body with my bike. This time, I landed square into a tree-bush. A bush-tree, if you’d rather. This time, there was a fair amount of spectators, and bike people at that. So the best part of this one was that I got that collective, “DOOOOOOOOHHHHHHH are you ok Lady???”
As I lay in a dirt patch wearing my beautiful biking outfit now covered in blood and dirt and twigs and leaves, I thought, “Just leave me here. Just let me die.” I was officially defeated.
One (ONE!) of those spectators came over and offered to help me up. I was fighting back tears like they were tiny communists (“Get back, you beasts!”) and squeaked out an, “It’s my first time,” as I extended a shaky hand. The kind citizen said to me as he tried to pull me out of what could have easily been my final resting place, “If it’s your first time, they should have loosened your clip-ins so it’s easier for you to clip in and out.”
[Where is that chauvinistic bastard Toby, I’m going to fucking kill this guy]
My savior witness then lifted my bike off of me as I twisted my ankles in that horrid move I had come to loathe in order to free myself from the brute that one last time. As I clambered up onto my unsteady legs, I saw Ken run back as he had noticed I never made it to the final destination. He asked me if I was ok (this is an awful question when you already know the answer) and I was able to squeeze out a, “Give me a minute,” as I hurled my bike at him. Because Ken knows me well, he knew to give me the goddamn minute. He told me he’d take my bike in for me.
I stood there, behind the bike shop. I wiped the tears that had escaped. I struggled to steady my bottom lip. I tried to do a “do I have all my limbs” check, but saw my elbow and gagged a little so decided against that. I collected myself to the best of my ability so I was at least somewhat presentable and could keep just an ounce of that pride I had tried so very hard to keep.
In my mind, I was semi-presentable. In reality, it was Quasimoto after being thrown off a cliff limping into that bike shop. I was hovered over- bleeding, covered in dirt and dried tears, with branches and burrs sticking out of my helmet and a bum right hip I was dragging behind me as I scanned the restaurant looking for weapons with which I could kill Toby.
Ken spotted me and quickly trotted my direction. He came up waving his hands in a “don’t worry” fashion and as he approached he whispered quickly, “Oh you don’t have to be in here, I’ll take care of all of this…why don’t you go wait by the car…with the others….I’ve got this handled.”
He knew. He knew I was looking for Toby.
I turned and gimped my way out. By the looks on the faces of the other people in the bike shop, I knew I had no pride left. I made it to the others who were by the car de-gearing. They all looked so normal, so untouched. Knowing I was with those who cared about me now, and knowing what little was left of my treasured pride was left in the tree-bush/bush-tree along with some hair and skin, when Keely asked me if I was ok this time I burst into an uncontrollable sob.
I was gently tucked into the front seat. The girls helped take my helmet off, and turned on the air conditioner and shut the door. They let me cry and cry and heave and blubber and curse and wail. Later, they brought me ointments and creams and bandages and booze.
It should be noted that after my cry-session in the car, I did not cry again. There was of course more cursing, and definitely wincing, and obvi a ton of bitching, but I didn’t cry again. We all went back to our Ken and Barbie Dream House and ordered a Chinese feast and drank stiff cocktails and watched the Olympics.
Everyone has asked me if I will get back on a bike again. When surfers get bitten by sharks, do they go back to their precious sport? Don’t answer that. Yes, I will get back on a bike again. I will not be using the expert pedals, and I will not be speaking to Toby again, ever. But the bike part was good. The bike part I loved. Plus if I take that same route without falling, I may just be able to pick up all of those pieces of my athletic pride, which I will undoubtedly need for scattering for the next sport I try.