Downhill XTREME!

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 finally got back on Valentino on Tuesday. He’d been gathering cobwebs for six months or so due to knee-hab and crappy weather.

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.


33 thoughts on “Downhill XTREME!

  1. That’s a bloody good effort and everyone knows hills looks less steep in photos. It’s kinda like the camera adding 5 pounds thing except on hills it’s losing whatevers of gradient. It’s such a pretty place to go riding too.

    I don’t need the ‘too fat’ excuse any more. I have the ‘too un-co’ one with scars to prove it!

  2. Jeeeeesus! You have been busy – look at all these entries, and a contact page too! I likes it!

    That hill looks big – really it does. It made me think of how scared I was the first time I rode down a big hill with no brakes. Very scared. So whooot whoooot and yippeeee for DG on wheels!

  3. My personal opinion is that bike shorts are not padded enough! I have padded shorts, and TWO gel covers on my gel seat and still I feel like I riding on a torture device! Maybe I should get one of those girl seats after all…

    When I ride, I usually go on Sundays with my girl friends… one owns a beauty shop… we usually ride to her place (10 miles) then go in and she does all of our hair while we drink wine and gossip! The result is a Pavlov reaction… bike = wine!

  4. well that IS one steep hill…way to go on trying it , twice! I would have died half way there…that is a beautiful peaceful!

  5. hehe! cheers! ๐Ÿ™‚

    scotland is bonnie indeed. doesn’t look like that today though! grey, cold, ‘orrible!

    lainey – it’s called the power of procrastination ๐Ÿ˜›

    gracie – that sounds like an awesome idea! all that and your hair done too? cooool.

  6. heh- I feel the same way about hills- when I am skiing. How hard is it to ski when you hate steep hills? Really hard! It is more about losing control than it is the hill. Once you really know your gears and the best way to stop without going over, you will race down those hills!

  7. That path looks great. The hill doesn’t look that steep BUT it does look long, which is almost as bad – you gather speed as you go down and run out of steam on teh way back – so it’s not quite as bad as all that.

    Thanks for sharing though!

  8. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, but I wanted to say: You’re in Oprah! Woo hoo!

  9. Oops! Posted this below when it should have been here:

    Of course, if you’re big enough, you don’t get a wedgie from your tiny bike shorts but from the bike seat itself. Ouch! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Heh, I have taken many a picture of “ooh look at how steep this hill is that I’m hiking on” only to be disappointed at how unscary the photo turned out. I believe you ๐Ÿ™‚

    What a cute (and deathly steep) little country road though, remind me to move to the UK at some point in my life.

    I entered in my new blog in your info thingum. It is lame, but maybe as I get into things it will get better. Don’t hold your breath though, I’ve started things like this before only to get frustrated with how untalented I am in the writing department and abandon ship ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Persevere…. after spending at least an hour on my bike every single weekend for the last 8 weeks, I can finally do a hand signal without crashing in an undignified heap.

    And don’t worry, sometimes I still forget which gear lever is which. But I don’t walk up hills any more. Yay!

  12. what a beautiful spot but how brave of you to ride there when you are scared ๐Ÿ™‚ the problem with fear is it’s real – I nearly chuck every time I race & I do about 12 a year. But once you jump the hurdle it’s great fun! BTW I am the same w/ gears pedal pedal pedal oops none left bother! Well done DG

  13. Funny how you said when we were kids all we needed ws bare feet, shorts and the spirit of youth – that’s pretty much how I ride a bike, heh heh! I’ve rode my bike up to a cafe in Fairfield on the weekend, wearing thongs!! (jandals, flip-flops, whatever non-Australians call them!) But admittedly, when I’m negotiating the Yarra Trail, I’m not so nonchalant!

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s rediscovered the joy of cycling! It’s my “exercise when I don’t feel like doing anything”!!! Cycling rocks.

  14. i swear, it really was steep! ish!

    I sure hope cycling can be my “exercise when I don’t feel like doing anything”. Right now it is my “exercise when i feel like a bit of humiliation and aching legs”. hehe.

    jen – great stuff! i will check it out ๐Ÿ™‚

    kek – you give me hope, mate!

  15. Yay for the hill! Such a courageous act ๐Ÿ™‚ I am scared of bikes, unless they are stapled on floor in a spinning theatre. You are my hero. Lovely photo, hills in Finland look very different, I can’t really put my finger on why though ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  16. Ooh, well done you.

    Re. the signalling thing, you might try just uncurling your fingers (one hand at a time if you feel safer that way) so that you’re driving with hand on top rather than curled round. Then when you’re comfortable with that you can gradually move your hand backwards so that eventually you’re just steering with the fingertips. Sit quite upright so your weight is over the saddle and not the handlebars as you do this. That will get you used to a) not gripping tightly and b) recognising how lightly you can actually hold the bike.

    Once you’re used to that you can try lifting your hand – do it slowly and gently – no snatching.

    A top tip is to keep looking ahead as you do all of this not at your hands.

  17. So i shouldnt tell you about how i got a new bike? i had to buy new bike because old bike got totalled by me riding it down a hill, went to turn left. did not turn left enough and ran over a kurb into a very large very solid wall. apprently i could have broken my neck

    but hey you keep riding down those hills ๐Ÿ™‚
    actually it was cause by me goung to fast and the rain. not trying to scare u any more i promis

  18. The hills near me are all 6% or greater grade and they are as miserable going up as down, so I just drive to the bottom of the hill with the bike in the car and then go and do my riding. I know it’s a wussy girl thing to do, but when the bike starts going faster than the cars on the downhill, I lose all desire to bike ever again.

  19. Hey, I know exactly what you are talking about. I gave bike riding a go not long ago… it is very very hard. God. I feel your pain.

  20. Reading about the bike ride had me in tears with laughter. I’m sure the hill is much steeper than it looks. Another task ticked off your list – well done.

  21. Good job, I’m really proud of you for giving it a go! I used to ride bikes all of the time when I was a kid (and skinny). I’d love to find a bike seat big enough for my enormous rear end to sit on though without it looking like a tractor seat! *sighs* I’ll just work on losing a wee (okay a lot) more weight and then tackling a bike. ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. I thought I posted this comment the other day, so apologise if it appears twice?!

    I was always too much of a wuss to ride bare foot…. the pedals had these plastic bumps and it hurt my feet.

    Not to mention the pain of searing flesh if you stopped and put your feet on the road…..

  23. LOL

    I LOVE this picture and you got me laughing due to the fact that I took a picture of my hill a few days ago with my camera phone but it looked not very steep when I looked at it.

    I think that is an exceptional effort and the hill is devine Shuana!

  24. LOL! I cycle to work every day so I am not that simpathetic. The thing to remember about bicycles are that they are a lot like skates, the faster you go the harder it is to fall.

    But congratulations on starting the downhill thing, it is very very brave of you!

  25. Good for you! When I was a kid I went flying down a hill — and over the top of the handlebars!! Didn’t do any real damage but I wore the scabs on my knees like a badge of courage!

    Cycling is great fun — once you lose the fear. And you will only lose that through practice. The more you cycle, the easier it will become. All this from the woman who was too scared to cycle on the road and now commutes through busy London traffic on a daily basis. If I can conquer the fear ANYONE can. Really.

  26. Thank you for sharing this story with us. I too am deathly scared of Downhill. I go faster uphill than I do down, as I’m terrified of going fast and being out of control.
    I think my worst moment was cycling from Avebury to Swindon and going down the most awful hill I’ve ever seen. I was doing 30mph – with both brakes fully applied! White and shaky doesn’t come close..
    I’m getting better though, learning to trust myself and my control of my wheeled steed. But I still get through brake pads like nobody’s business ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Good job giving it another go! I can definitely sympathize with you on this. I still ride my brakes downhill. Itโ€™s scarrrrrry!! Oh, and if it makes you feel any better, the first time I rode up a hill, I almost fell over because I couldnโ€™t figure out how to change gears. Yes, I know how to ride a bike, but itโ€™s tough to think when youโ€™re gripping the handlebars white-knuckled!

  28. Hmmm…bikes…

    Not a big fan of them.

    Would probably manage to hurt myself going down a normal street, let alone going down a hill ๐Ÿ˜›

    So…I guess, when it cames to this, I will have to live vicariously through you ๐Ÿ˜€

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