Borris Viaduct

Borris Viaduct
Borris ViaDuct

Friday, 5 April 2013

A Question of Balance - Phoenix Park Cycling & Transition Practise

After a week or two of recovering and thinking about what we had done, myself and JJ were ready for a cycle again - nothing major, just into Phoenix Park and back. JJ had a new bike on order and was not that keen on cycling his old acquired bike (ever) again, so we agreed he would take my hybrid and I would take my Sensa Road bike.

I had only gotten the Sensa the summer before, had only done a couple of test cycles on it before my first triathlon in Skerries, and was barely getting used to the balance of it when I got tri-bars fitted before my 3rd (my first Olympic Distance) triathlon in Cobh (which I never really used in that event, as I just didn't trust myself yet). Because of a virus in September that took 2 months to shake and a really long winter, I hadn't been on that bike (except for stationary turbo trainer) since that event, 7 months earlier. On top of this I thought this would be a good opportunity to try out my newly acquired Look Pedals and clip in Triathlon shoes for the 1st time, on the road. I had tried them on the turbo a few times, and I didn't see it as being a big jump to take it out.

I was a bit weary though, so I threw my runners and old pedals in a pannier bag, just in case.

Straight from the outset, I was incredibly uncomfortable in the shoes. I was not used to walking with the large cleats pushing my feet up and just carrying my bike down the steps outside my apartment felt incredibly dodgy. Then there's a steep little driveway out of my apartment, which I went up at the in the wrong gear, had to quickly clip out of, and then barely had the purchase to hop up the rest of the driveway! I looked like a right eejit. Once we got cycling I found it quite difficult clipping my standing foot back in, and after a little run was depressed to see I would have to unclip again to stop at the round about, which was even dodgier pushing out into when my shoes kept slipping of the pedals!

I was a nervous wreck cycling into Phoenix park - it didn't help that I has barely familiar with the balance of this bike anymore, and was also paranoid about having to stop and push off in heavy traffic. JJ however was having a better time, he was really enjoying the responsiveness of my hybrid in comparison to his old bike, and was realising in hindsight how much he was having to battle with the other bike to get it going at a decent speed. The tables had turned now, with him zooming off ahead and me struggling to catch up!

Phoenix park was better. It was a pretty nice day, and on the quieter roads/ cycle paths I felt a bit more comfortable and started practising clipping and unclipping while on the go. We did a lap of the park, doing the reverse of the duathlon course I had done a year before, which is a wonderful series of winding roads and long descents which feed into quick little climbs. This was about 10km of cycling or so, before we went to the Papal cross for a break.

My intention was to practise some triathlon transitions (leave shoes clipped into pedals, mount bike in barefeet and try fit shoes to feet while cycling/ loosen and remove shoes while cycling and dismount in barefeet)  in the soft grassy plains around the cross - I really wasn't prepared for how difficult it was going to be!!

I had real problems with coordination trying to reach straps while cycling and had a real problem with keeping pedalling for momentum while trying to reach the straps!! I was a bit of a disaster zone while doing this, and trying to take off the shoes while cycling was just as dodgy. I knew know that I would have to address my balance issues. I only ever indicated when going right (ie across traffic) and never really indicated left, and apart from clear tricky triathlon transition issues, it was the reason I didn't take bike-mounted bottles on long (or any) cycles (or triathlons). In fact the main reason I got tri bars the year before was because I liked the idea of the tri-bar mounted water bottle which I figured I would need on my 1st Olympic triathlon (I had not taken on any water on the bike during my previous sprint triathlons in Skerries & Athlone)! So yes, my €150 tri-bars when purchased were pretty much and incredilby expensive bottle mount for me at the time!

So anyways, I eventually got fed up trying and failing to do this, and changed my pedals back to my old owns and changed into runners for the cycle home. I just didn't feel confident on the other pedals on the busy roads I told myself I would try them again soon, but it be another year before I did!

The cycle back was pretty pleasant, along the scenic Strawberry Beds of Liffey Valley back to Lucan. I was relieved to be back in comfortable shoes, but still pretty sketchy with my balance on the bike. I did make a conscious effort to indicate more, or just generally take my arms off the handlebars one at a time. I was pretty embarassed by my lack of balance in the park, and I was determined to do something about it!

JJ however had had a much more pleasant experience. Seeing what a difference it was to cycle on a decent bike, I think he felt justified in his investment in a new bought for purpose bike, which he would be getting soon.

All in all, it actually was a good day, and I think we were both motivated and ready to do another long cycle again soon.
The Papal Cross, site of many ill-fated transitions attempts