I took my brand new aero road bike, the mighty Felt AR2 (2016), on my first ever ride last weekend. The guys at Santa Monica Mountains Cyclery that fitted my bicycle were so cool: they didn’t let me leave the store until I proved beyond doubt that I was capable of clipping and unclipping my shoes.
Well, one thing is to practice on a stationary bike trainer, another is to ride in the Santa Monica Mountains. My worst fear, however, was not to spill while going downhill next to the canyon. The worst case scenario was coming to an intersection, stopping at a red light, not being able to unclip my shoes and capsizing spectacularly in slow motion in front other cyclists, pedestrians, cars, and attractive women.
I’m taking a handful of notes-to-self based on my 30-mile experience:
- Downshift before getting on hills. I forgot to do this a few times and 1) my speed sank, 2) my legs went in the red immediately, 3) my bike cried when shifting gears, 4) a pack of mature drivers passed and dropped me with scorn.
- If you fall at a slow speed, don’t rush to get on the bike again. I tried. I was going uphill. Nobody witnessed my fall. I needed to get back on the bike before others coming behind me saw me. Mistake. I fell again clumsily. This time they saw me, asked if I was ok, then chuckled away.
- Check gears before restarting the ride… or run the risk of capsizing in front of a crowd of Harley riders. At least 20 of them, everyone enjoying the view and beverages at The Rock Store. I stopped to take a picture, unclipped, then tried to restart, clip, and make a U-turn at the same time. FAIL. LAUGHTER. (See picture above).
- When coming to a stop during a downhill, take it easy with the front brakes. Well, the front brake felt more effective than the rear one as I winded through the canyon. And then: a stop sign at the bottom of the hill. I clasped both brake handles, the front wheel became an anchor and axis, and my body was propelled forward like a super hero!
- Wear your watch “upside down”. It’s easier to see the dial.
- Don’t fidget with your watch while driving. Each time I fell, my Forerunner 735XT detected that I had stopped moving and paused the recording. However, sometimes it didn’t resume automatically. I tried to do it while descending on Mulholland Highway: 1) eyes came off the road and onto the dial, 2) right hand came off the handlebar... the rest of the sequence just followed its logical conclusion.
- Take photos. Upload them to Strava and Instagram. Have fun.