18 February 2012

clipless is neither clip nor less — discuss

The funny thing about riding clipless, which I have only recently started to do so don't be too impressed, is how much easier it is. It's what riding with toe cages wants to be but can never achieve. At the moment, I'm riding clipless on a single-speed freewheel bike. But I CANNOT WAIT to ride clipless fixed. It's the logical extension of the fixed-gear promise: using every ounce of power I've got, during every part of the pedal stroke.

Meanwhile, my fears of falling helpless to the pavement, mangled under the wheels of a bus, were unfounded. (Having said that, I've adopted the habit of wearing my helmet at all times, not just on long trips, not just at night. I'm riding faster. The stakes are higher.) Though I was very used to the backwards-&-out gesture of bailing out of toe baskets, clipless' sideways gesture soon became intuitive. I was warned by several people that I was going to fall, probably at a traffic light, probably in front of a crowd of people who would point & laugh at me. So far, I haven't fallen. I'd love to think I'm just awesome, but I credit trying really hard & having just enough pride to do whatever it takes to not fall. And ballet.

In ballet, as in life, you must tell your muscles when to remember & when to forget. In order to really learn something — to learn a new step or to better perform a step you already know — you have to lock in the new feeling of the new thing & recognize it, instantly & forever (until you learn an even better way to do it), as "right". It means remembering to THINK about something that had been intuitive til then. Within my first twenty minutes riding on the road (not my first twenty minutes with the pedals on the bike*, mind you), I could reliably clip in within the first or second pedal stroke. My feet had figured out where they needed to go, & they went there without me having to think about it too much. I still have to think about it. But not too much.

* The absolute first twenty minutes with the pedals on the bike were spent not on the street but on my dear friend's driveway, one foot on a curb & the other practicing clipping in & clipping out, clipping in & clipping out. Then, the other side. I'm incredibly grateful for the loan of the pedals themselves, but this time spent locking in that muscle memory was super important toward the goal of me maintaining my dignity on the road later on. I highly recommend it. Thank you, sir. You are the best.

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