Once you’ve learned to ride a bicycle––the saying goes––you never forget how.That’s probably true. However, if you decide to advance into bicycle racing there are a ruck of other techniques to acquire that, when mastered, you forget how hard they were to learn.
The first is to develop a mindset allowing you to go out in public, unashamed, wearing shiny, clingy, skin-tight black spandex cycling shorts.
Another is to wear hideously expensive cycling shoes that tap like Sammy Davis when you’re walking on the street, but when you are on the bike clip your entire being into the pedals, fusing you and the bike into one.
Last, but never least, is learning how to balance this body-bike fusion when you come to a traffic light and don’t want to unclip your shoes and get out of the pedals.
You’ve all seen the rider who comes to a dead stop in front of your car and, leg muscles taut, stands up off the seat with the front wheel pointing north and the rear wheel pointing south waiting for the light to change while cooly balanced in the middle of the lane without any visible support. Having just begun bike racing, I hadn’t mastered balancing my bike yet but I wanted to do it so I practiced every safe chance I got.
One Friday afternoon I was riding through crowded Waikiki to a training session in Kapiolani Park. The stop light changed to red and, fleetingly, I thought I’d try balancing myself, just as a a flag-bearing Japanese drover led a herd of tourists into the intersection to cross the street.
Too late to unclip my shoes and thinking to prop myself up, I reached toward the light pole with my right hand, just as a bespectacled, business-suited tourist stepped in front of it. I quickly bent my arm back but, with arm still bent, continued toppling sideways punching my elbow into his buttoned-up chest––and nailed him to the pole.
From that moment on I accepted the fact that I’d probably never learn how to balance a bicycle but that was OK. Instead I practiced getting out of my clipped-in shoes in a hurry.