Rookie Panic

Yesterday started out perfectly for a ride- clear blue skies, not too hot a beautiful Colorado day.  I had been looking forward to riding all week and didn’t really care where.  I’d had a stressful week and I just wanted to get out with Miss Bella and relax.

I had decided on a route that was not terribly long, but would take me on some new roads.  The traffic was fairly light and I was enjoying seeing new sights.  I was comfortable on the bike and enjoying the morning.  As I reached the outskirts of Boulder, Colorado there were orange cones and traffic detours for some kind of bicycle race.  The police had it well in hand and people were being patient with each other, including me as I needed to merge due to a lane closure.  There were a couple extra stops due to the race going by, but nothing too crazy.

I was most of the way through Boulder and about to head for home when a stoplight turned yellow that I wasn’t expecting.  Typically I watch the crosswalk signs to see how much time is left in the green light; I must have been paying attention to traffic at the intersection instead.  In a split second I decided to stop for the light and grabbed both brakes.  A millisecond later, I realized this was a bad idea, but I was already committed and not sure how to find my way out of it.  In my focus on stopping, I neglected to grab the clutch and yes, I stalled and slid into the intersection a bit.  I was feeling pretty stupid, but thought I could just back up and get out of the way.  No, Miss Bella was not having any of that and refused to go into neutral.  Nor would she restart so I could get out of the way by going forward.  With a dead bike and me staring down traffic, I decided the only way out was forward and I tried to push her onward.  Next thing I know, my bike was on the ground, right in the intersection.  Now I was REALLY panicked!

I tried picking up my bike alone (hah!) and it seemed like hours went by before someone came to help me.  In reality it was probably a minute or two, I’m sure.  He asked if I was ok, then helped me get Bella upright again.  I was not hurt, just terribly embarrassed and this time I pushed her forward and onto the shoulder ahead.  I knew it was going to be a few minutes before she would restart after having been dropped.

As I sat there on the shoulder, a bicyclist came over and suggested I take the sidewalk, assuming I was out of gas.  I assured him I had plenty of gas, that wasn’t the issue.  I’m sure he had good intentions but he started asking lots of questions about the bike.  I was not really in a chatting state since I was still feeling the adrenaline coursing through me.  Another car soon pulled over and the driver came to see if I needed assistance since he had pulled up after the bike drop had happened.  He could tell I was still shaking and  calmly stood there talking with me while my heart rate came back to normal.  He also stuck around to make sure Bella would indeed start and that I was ready to head off again.

I made my way home, shaken up but unharmed and thankful for the kindness of strangers.  The next items on my training list will be learning to pick up my own bike and working on emergency braking.  While most of the riding I’ve done so far is in areas with plenty of people to help me pick the bike up, I want to be prepared for the day when there isn’t anyone nearby.  I also know that I need to make the emergency braking as routine as the rest of my riding skills so that next time I need them, I don’t panic and cause more issues for myself.

Once last part I am grateful for is not giving a thought to getting back on the bike and going off again.  Around 20 years ago when I had a minor accident I was so scared that I stopped riding right then.  That won’t happen this time and I am thankful for how far I’ve come.  Yes, some rookie mistakes led me to dropping my bike and feeling really dumb, but I will move forward and seek out the training I need to improve.

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