We’re almost one-sixth of the way through 2007 so it’s high time I checked in on some of my goals for the year.
7. Learn to ride my bike down a hill!!!
Ooh, three exclamation marks. You know that means business.
I did my usual I don’t wanna whinging as we got ready to go out. Why does cycling involve so much bloody gear? The tiny shorts with the padded crotch, the leggings, the top, the lurid jacket, the dinky skullcap so my ears don’t freeze off, the helmet, the gloves. When I was a kid, all you needed was bare feet, shorts n t-shirt and the spirit of youth!
Out on the street, I was still too chicken to ride on the Big Road down to the cycle track, so I pedaled timidly and illegally on the footpath. I felt so much more comfortable on the bike than before, but I still don’t have the skills to release the handlebar death-grip in order to make a hand signal!
Once on the path it felt brilliant straight away. My legs (and knee) were so much stronger. The breeze was icy and my fingers were numb but it was great to be outside, dodging horse shit and twigs and trying to remember what all the levers do. We went a leisurely 3.5 miles before I had to stop to dig out a wedgie. Stupid tiny bike shorts.
I was all set to turn around and head for home when Gareth pointed to a quiet country road leading off the path.
"Fancy riding down the hill?" he asked.
"But what about your New Year’s Resolution? You said you wanted to go down hills!"
"Yeah but. Isn’t it enough that I came out at all? I mean, that’s excellent progress."
"Nup. Come on. It’s only a wee hill."
"It’s HUGE! And there could be a car."
"There’s been two cars on this road in the past month!"
"With my luck, I’ll get mowed down!"
The top of the hill looked too steep so I kinda half-dismounted and shuffled a few metres down to a less scary starting point. I pushed off and… wheeeeeeee!
Okay. I braked the whole way down.
And then I couldn’t bloody get back up the hill! I had forgotten how to work the gears!
"Which one makes it easier to pedal!?" I screamed to Gareth. "Left or right!?". In the end I had to push the bike up the hill.
"Just great," I said, "I have issues going down AND up hills! Right. Let’s go home."
"Home?" said Gareth. "Aren’t you going to give it another go?"
"No way! That’s enough for one day."
"Awww! One more go?"
"NOOOOUUUUEEE!" Why is it the more juvenile I behave, the more vowels I pack in to a word?
"NOOOOUUUUUEE!" Gareth mimicked in his increasingly convincing Australian accent. "What about your resolution?"
"That was just an idle promise, you pushy bastard."
He’s really not pushy at all; I think that’s what makes me so cranky. If he was being a real bully I could have just told him to bugger off. But when he is being so patient and encouraging, well.
You know what else was so bloody infuriating? Realising that I was experiencing a genuine (albeit irrational) fear. And I couldn’t use my fat to avoid it anymore. I have lost my all-purpose excuse.
Before I would never have even bought a bike in the first place because I’d have said, "I can’t, I’m too fat!". But now if don’t want to do something, it’s because I’m scared or lazy or afraid of failing or looking stupid. It’s no doubt been like that all along, but the fat was an excellent excuse. It was such an obvious, visible physical barrier; whereas to just admit to myself that I was scared of a gently undulating slope? It’s confronting and bloody embarrassing. I’ve known for years I can no longer play the I’m Too Fat card, but every now and then I miss it.
"Alright then," I hissed. "I’ll do it."
"Woohoo!" said Gareth. "See if you can get halfway down before you put on the brakes!"
I have to admit the second time was almost enjoyable. It was bloody fast but I didn’t brake until 3/4 down. I almost crapped myself when a car came along but I managed to pull over in time without falling into the ditch. And I managed to pedal 3/4 back up the hill, huffing and cursing, until I totally ran out of gears! My legs circled madly going nowhere, like a cartoon character going over a cliff.
So obviously I have much to learn. But I had fun and felt quite at home on the bike. I was really chuffed when Gareth told me later I looked really natural and comfortable on the bike, as opposed to my previous grim expression and stiff limbs. Woohoo!
I took a picture of The Hill on the cameraphone and couldn’t believe how pathetic it looked like on the screen! The perspective is distorted or something. But I SWEAR, it’s steeper than it looks. It’s really scary! Honest. Yeah.