French Linen

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Learning to Ride a Bike (Again)

The street kids breeze by on their bicycles, elated to be done with school and feeling the warm air on a sunny, summer Martha's Vineyard June day. "Watch out for the car!," exclaims one particularly cautious and smart kid.

I am patiently trying to help my wonderful husband Mike, who doubles as a bike mechanic, with my new pedals and pearly white bike shoes. They will finally make their way out of their box, where they have lived for the last 2 months since the delivery of one of our many Bike Nashbar purchases. I had decided to use toe clip (basket) pedals for my first tri for faster transition times -- and I had enough new gear to worry about and practice in.

Mike still reminisces about his summer job in a bicycle shop on Martha's Vineyard every time we pass by Ray Cutler's bike shop in downtown Edgartown. Ray is long gone but his name remains - last time we saw him wandering the quaint, red brick streets of our home away from home, he was partially paralysed from a stroke but seemed happy living on his boat in the azure blue harbor of millionaires. I'm sure he regularly gave the happy boater wave with the side of his body that worked to Walter Kronite, whose house and boats occupied the same marina when he graced the earth.

Mike has learned a lot since he walked in as just another scrappy 16 year old looking for a job. "Do you know anything about repairing bikes?", and so the interview went. "Oh sure," he fibbed. "You're hired.". Of course, the facts to the contrary soon became apparent as Ray scoffed, "I thought you said you'd done this before.". But, thanks to Ray who inevitably said the same thing to every teenage hire, Mike became his apprentice for the summer. And so every year when we pass by the shop, Mike stops and tells this story to the newest 16 year old apprentice who grins in familiar confirmation.

So, we are almost done with the latest mechanical project but the very last screw in the shoe is amiss. After 15 minutes of tiny hands (mine) and strong hands (his), we come to the conclusion this just isn't working. We find an alternative set of screws and, voila. Sometimes you just have to keep trying;)

I'm now ready for my inaugural ride -- I'll finally be a real and official bicycle rider. I don my yellow Nike Tour de France jersey for the occasion. I purchased it in France when I was serendipitously in Paris for last year's Champs Elysee finale.

Mike follows me to the street where I will take some practice runs at getting in and out of the clip on pedals that until this year I had said, "no thanks." But, as long as I'm trying the tri, what's one more new thing to try?

He holds me steady while I attempt to click in my left foot. It takes a few tries, but then I announce "I'm in". Now, the harder part is the right foot that just doesn't want to click. I let out small cries of worry that I'm going to fall over and Mike assures me that he's got me. Finally, "click" and then I have no choice but to go.

"Just know how to ride a bike...go down to the V where you can turn around without stopping.". Uh...ok...I do as I'm told, and when I return, he's there ready to catch me but I successfully click out and stop without the aid.

Feeling I've got it, I go to the other end of the street where there is no V. I realize a little too late that I won't be able to make a sharp enough turn with both feet firmly clamped in. I turn into the mossy grass and feel myself falling over. At the last minute, my left foot unclicks and I save the fall. Hmmm....more practice needed.

Five more successful ins and outs and I feel ready to go. "Which way?" Mike inquires. "Whichever way we don't have to stop," I declare. We head out on the bike path down to South Beach.

During the stretch through town, there is one small incident in which I don't want to stop at the stop sign and neither does the car at the intersection. I win and he honks. Mike is not pleased. Note to self, get ready to stop earlier next time. And, purchase and wear a sign: "Student driver aboard. Please be patient."

We finally are full speed ahead and my legs feel like they are working harder than ever. I can feel the power of the extra pull up. "Wahoo - 21 mph Mike calls out.". He's thrilled with my new ability to keep up.

We keep up the pace as we pass by the big open sheep grazing Katama meadow and turn right on the road paralleling South Beach and then right again to make our way pass the grass runway airport. I feel like I'm gliding just like the no engine plane that takes off from there. Heading back, we are at 38:23 when we hit the 10 mile mark (my time in the tri was 40:01 and this ride has included some slow town parts).

I feel like a kid again, having learned my latest trick in record speed, averaging over 15 mph on the entire 12.2 mile ride. Next time, I'll just heed the advice of the smart street kid to watch out for the car.

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