Back to Basics: Maintaining Balance

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Biking is all about maintaining your balance on two moving wheels. I was lucky as a kid to learn to balance myself soon enough to enjoy the thrills and adventures of riding a BMX bike. With fingers near the handbrake and legs long enough to reach the ground, I was a confident kid biker patrolling the streets and outskirts of my neighborhood. Sometimes I would even sneak out onto the main avenues to get the latest food or gadget kids crave. As a child, you think you are Superman. You do not think much about danger; you think only about adventure.

I am now trying my best to be that Superkid again - adventurous and unafraid. Main difference now is that I have outgrown my BMX and now ride a roadie. Whereas before I was riding upright, with feet ready to touch the ground when I wiggle or about to fall, on my road bike I am crouching and I my toes barely touch the ground. I now try to balance on thinner wheels and have to alight my seat when I make a full stop. If I am not careful in my dismount, the family jewels may be crushed.

Finding my balance on a roadie was actually easy for me. What bugs me as a new road biker is maintaining that balance when my so-called "stress factors" present themselves. I group those factors into those inducing me to make sudden stops and those distracting me from keeping my balance while moving. The "stop" group includes busy intersections and heavy human traffic aggravated by kids who suddenly bolt your way. The "distractions" group is composed of tricycles, jeepneys, and buses which threaten to push or squeeze me off the road. I am kinda used to cars and other bikes, but not yet to members of my distraction group.

Last December, less than a month after I got my roadie, I had an encounter with a stress factor. I was approaching an intersection when a car arrived from another side. I was biking on a descending road with gravity pulling me down and I actually have the right of way, but the car caught me by surpise and I needlessly panicked. I hesitated and debated whether to pedal on or stop. Panic prevailed over reason and I suddenly pulled the break. The bike jerked from the sudden stop and I fell off my bike. Good thing I somehow know how to fall - to roll with the force just like in aikido. Outcomes: very minor scrape on knee, minor scratch on bike, a bruised ego and a resolve to learn how to stop and alight properly from my bike so that I will never panic again. And so for the next 30 minutes I practiced several ways of alighting my bike, imagining each time I was in an intersection with cars crossing. I went home several notches more confident.

First week of January I resolved I must deal with the distraction or the annoying vehicles group. Instead of riding within my village, or transporting my bike on vehicle for cycling practice on another village, I figured I would bike my way to the nearest neighboring village. Now that entails biking along a stretch of busy, car-and-tricycle infested main avenue. It was just about a kilometer stretch actually between my village gate and the next one, but that is a traffic-congested stretch. No sidewalks and bike lanes here. Everyone competes for road space.

I was actually a little groggy from lack of sleep on my first foray into busy roads. I reasoned out however that risk is manageable as I am biking just a small stretch, and help and hospitals are just a kilometer away. I simply had to hit the busy roads eventually, and so I did it. About 500 meters on the busy road, still groggy me realized I forgot the my most important bike gear - my helmet! Stupid, stupid, stupid. I was half-way between accomplishing my mini-goal and going back to where I started. I bravely decided to pedal on, doubly alert and cautious until I reach the safety of the next village.

Inside my neighboring village I thought I could already bike worry-free. Well, that was about 80% true. It was Sunday and people and cars were milling their way into the 2 churches there along a busy village street. As I looped through the village roads, I had to pass through this busy street. So I got to practice my bike stops and dismounts. After doing this for at least 10 times, I suppose I am ready to bike farther away from home and move closer to becoming Superman. I can also settle for Lance Armstrong.


kelcy June 30, 2010 at 11:33 PM  

rico, thanks for sharing...ego nga ba yun? but for me, not really a bruised ego, but more like, nakakababa ng confidence. parang sa physical activities (so to speak), sobrang olats ako dito. it's wreaking havoc on my confidence level. 6 bike falls out of 8 bike rides, not a good number...

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