Biking for Dummies

Friday, 28 January 2011  |  Bullish Insights

Biking for Dummies. That’s the book I need right now for two obvious reasons:

1) This February, my goal is to learn how to bike with cleats, and
2) I’m the dumbest person I know when it comes to biking.

My brain has the capacity to memorize pace and time for marathons, but it struggles to absorb any word or number associated with bikes, except for “Contessa” and “Shimano”. If it is pressured to recall any more than that, it goes into emergency mode and my brother-the-cyclist’s cellphone number automatically pops out in blinking red lights, much like the fire exit sign in a burning building.

As I’ve said, the magic word for the coming month is: cleats. I never knew that this 6-letter word could cause so much stress in my life. Every single time it’s been mentioned, whether at the community bike shop, over coffee with Jun (The Solemates), or at a dinner party with Team Hammer, my palms get all sweaty and my legs lock up. I am so incredibly afraid of falling off the bike if or when I forget to uncleat. Worse, I am so worried that when I do fall, I will break a bone in my body which will render me unable to run for months. I will die if that happens.

I’m an optimist and I pray it doesn’t happen, but who am I kidding? I don’t know anyone who hasn’t fallen off a bike while learning to ride with cleats. I bet in the mysterious and secret world of biking, one can only enter the 10-foot tall, well-guarded gates by revealing gaping wounds from cleating accidents. It is, as all bikers say, a rite of passage.

I was so fearful of cleats that I tried my best to delay using them for as long as possible. Remember that I got my Contessa in October? I had the convenient excuse of not riding it since I was training for New York Marathon. Then I was lucky enough to use the busy holiday excuse for December. While I was thinking of a new excuse for January, good friends from GranTrail bike shop decided to put an end to the charade. A couple of weeks ago, they surprised me with Shimano bike shoes and cleats! Overhwhelmed with joy (and fear), I texted Hans of GranTrail to thank him profusely for the gift, then I wiped the sweat off my face as I thought: “Crap, now I don’t have a reason NOT to learn how to use cleats anymore.”

– Thanks Hans & Cherie Co of GranTrail Cycles! –

Now, back to how I dumb I am. In excitement, in the car, I opened the Shimano box to fit the shoes. I ripped out the velcro from the first two straps, then I spotted the buckle for the shoe. I pulled it, flipped it around, attempted to yank it off, pressed here, then there and I realized after a few minutes that I didn’t know how to open the shoe. Told you I’m the dumbest person when it comes to bikes.

Who did I call to answer the dumbest question ever? Not Hans, of course, that would be too embarrassing. I called on my dearest Kuya first. He said his shoe was just velcro, so he had no clue. Argh. Next I called on a good friend Jay (Prometheus Cometh) who, much to my bad luck, had simple one-strap velcro tri shoes; he had no clue either. I swallowed my pride and texted Hans. No reply. Gawd, he must’ve showed the text to everyone at the bike shop before answering me. Fortunately, I was fetching my son at his best friend’s house, and BFF’s dad, Jamike, is a triathlete and friend. So, after three pathetic pleas for help from several people, Jamike was successful at solving the world’s dumbest bike issue simply by pressing a button. Voila! The bike shoe unfastened and was ready for my fitting!

So, here I am now with the bike all set up, the bike shoes fitted with its cleats, and my heart palpitating every single time I think of practicing. Thankfully, it’s just January 28; I have four more days before February. Lord, help me.