Fear holds me back.

In many respects, I’m quite fearless.  Public speaking, travelling to new places, meeting new people – love it.  But when it comes to some things, I’m quite a fearful person – a deep, crippling fear that stops me getting on and doing things.

Take snowboarding, for example.  I love the feeling of exhilaration and I loved pushing my boundaries in terms of speed, but for some unknown reason I cannot turn on to my toe edge; when I do, I get scared (of what exactly!?  The snow isn’t going to jump up and bite me!) which means I lean in to the slope, and then I faceplant.  Every single time.

This morning, I picked up my bike shoes from the bike shop, and had them fit my pedals and cleats.  I cycled home with one shoe clipped in and one trainer (yes, I looked quite stupid) and built up my confidence.  I knew I would fall at some point; everybody falls when they first try shoes and cleats.  Against the advice of friends, I took the bike out for a spin in my shoes on the quiet roads near our flat.

Guess what?  I fell.  Hard, from almost-standing, on to my right side.  I’ll have a nice bruise for most of our three-day trip to the Canaries next weekend.

Unfortunately, despite knowing it would come, and knowing that everybody does, this fall has filled me with fear.  I’m utterly terrified that I’m going to fall, again, on to my right side.  I have multiple scenarios running through my head, of falling in London traffic, into the path of a car, or a cab, or an HGV, and be driven over and smashed to pieces, or crushed like roadkill, or thrown up into the air and into the path of something else, like the scene at the start of Meet Joe Black*.

Crippling, stupid fear.

I got back on the bike and rode to Uni in my shoes, but it was a very hesitant ride.  I’m not a hesitant cyclist (not anymore) and I found it frustrating – but mostly I spent most of the ride terrified, head filled with IMMINENT DEATH scenarios.  I made it there and back ok, but I’m still a bit shaky (and therefore having a small glass of red wine at 5pm, to steady my nerves).

So: what to do about the DOOM FEAR.  Well, I’m not going to stop cycling – that would be silly, and also defeatist.  I’m going to try not to put my old pedals back on – see previous.  But I am nervous about how my hesitancy will fare in Monday-morning commuter traffic, so we’ll have to see how that goes.  Eventually, I’d like to look in to NLP or hypnotherapy, to see if there’s anything that can help, but for now I’m hoping to push on through and do my best to banish the images if instant death from my mind.

What do you do to control your fear?  Any tips you’d like to share?  I’d appreciate it!

*This scene made me laugh out loud in the cinema when I saw it, because it was so contrived, which earned me filthy looks from pretty much everyone else in the audience.  Sorry.

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2 Responses to Fear

  1. Definitely keep going!

    If you can, find a patch of grass to cycle around, and get comfortable with clipping and unclipping. That way, if you fall, you’re landing on something soft(ish). Also take the time to adjust the tension of the clips; the looser the tension the more you have to twist your foot to get out. I have my tension set pretty high, which helps me get out of the pedals pretty quickly.

    My first in-traffic fall: coming up to a pedestrian crossing with a red light; slowed down; spaced out for a second, then realised a split second too late that I hadn’t unclipped yet. A gaggle of tourists got to witness the “oh bugger” and subsequent comedic fall from grace.

    What I do: whenever I’m in traffic where I foresee hazards, I unclip before entering the “danger zone”. This is greatly helped by my pedals being “clipless” on one side, and regular pedals on the other (Shimano A530 Touring Pedals), so I can just flip them as I’m riding and keep pedalling without feeling like I’m strapped to a Death Machine.

    I’ve found that the longer I ride with cleats, the more confident I become, and the closer to the “danger zones” I can get before I feel the need to unclip.

    • Hey Nick! Thanks for the advice.

      Chris uses those pedals, and he loves them (he went to those from ‘full’ SPD pedals, so he could ride in trainers or with cleats) but advised me against them to begin with, so I wasn’t faffing about trying to work out how to clip in every time I set off again.

      I had the bike shop set the tension on the clips to as loose as possible, so it was easier to get out, but from what you’ve said, actually the reverse is true? Maybe I should try tightening them a bit.

      Post coming up about how I’m dealing with it, 24 hours from falling – but yes, I will keep going!

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