Second group ride and lessons learned

I was so excited to get my second invitation to ride with the wonderful group of cyclists I met last week. This time we were heading out to the country side of Bostic, NC. I didn’t even know this place existed. Wow – nice roads, beautiful scenery and lots of lovely, rolling hills. The ride was just over 20 miles, but much harder that the 25 we did last week. The hills were longer and more frequent today.

The ride started off with a nice flat, nearly downhill stretch. Perfect for warming up. I was mid pack and maintaining a really nice pace. I was able to pay attention to my riding, but still participate in conversation… something I didn’t really do last week. I kept my upper body relaxed and maintained a pretty good cadence. I think I am supposed to be about 90 RPM, but that is tough. I was usually in the 80’s striving for the 90’s.

The first stop came about 7 miles in where I had a near perfect stop. I was able to unclip not too far out effortlessly lift my butt off the seat, stop and step down. Nice. I still have to think about every move…

A few sips of water, some bantering and we are off. A nice gradual uphill that is not too difficult. I am still able to keep my cadence pretty high and shifting pretty smoothly. We get to the top and there is a huge (to me) curvy downhill section.I hate downhill. I have a general fear of speed. I stay focused, but my poor hands and forearms get tired from holding the brakes. People even comment on the sound of my brakes… lovely. I try to relax and just go with it but it is hard. Even harder still when I realize that at the bottom of this hill there is a sharp left hand turn. The others handle it effortlessly. Me, not so much. I slow down so much that I am now WAY at the back of the pack. The sweepers are with me chatting away. They don’t seem to care that we are behind…. until one says “wow, look how far away the group is…” (jokingly). Really, they were very supportive!

Now, as luck would have it we are at the base of another big hill. I lost all momentum of the previous downhill that I remotely had and now had to go back up. It is a bad feeling you get when, half way up, you realize you are out of gears. It is not going to get any easier. I have Katie in my mind… what do you do when you are out of gears… snake… I am too embarrassed at this point to swerve up the road to make it easier so I just put my head down and peadal harder.

I made it up.

We get to go down again.

Until we have to stop at a stop sign that is at the end of the road on a slight uphill. With traffic.

Remember earlier when I had the perfect stop? All things happened as they should? Not this time. I barely got unclipped before coming to a complete stop and almost started rolling backwards and in the nick of time got my other foot unclipped before crashing into the ground. And yes, there were witnesses… “nice save!” my sweepers yell.

I try to regain composure and catch up with the group, who is now far ahead again. More downhill… then one last uphill. The longest uphill yet. I have to resort to a little snake to make it up. I made it just fine.

A little nice rolling/flat area and I am back with the group. They tell me one more little hill and we are back to the cars. Good. I decided I was going to make the most of this last hill and power up it. I shifted a couple of times and still had gears left. One more shift will make it perfect…. then my chain locked up. I panic. I am stuck – I cannot pedal and I am quickly slowing down. I can’t get my foot unclipped. For some reasons I say “oh no” “help”… I was wobbling and thought I was going down. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse… my cry for help caused two people in front of me to look back… and proceed to knock tires… and sent one woman crashing to the ground. It was all very horrible. She was fine- just got the wind knocked out of her and will most likely be bruised and sore tomorrow. We were close the the parking lot at this point some a couple of men went ahead and got the car to pick her up. I felt terrible.

Did I mention these were wonderful people? The sweepers rode back with me and told me that when this happens I should yell “chain off” (ok, not OH NO and HELP). coast… stay calm… try to shift and pedal so the chain goes in, or until you can safely stop. Lesson noted.

I was assured whole heartedly and truly sincerely that these things happen. I just wish I didn’t cause it to happen.

So, there you go… cycling takes a lot of skill – a lot more than running does!

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