Monday, October 8, 2007

Fear of Speed

or...why you should always post when you think of something and not wait until later when the point is moot.
Earlier this summer, I thought about devoting a post to my fear of going downhill.
But I didn't.
I just couldn't get myself to go downhill at faster than 25 mph.
This may sound completely wimpy to you 'hammerheads' out there, but I am fully convinced that at high speeds, my rickety bicycle will shake itself into little pieces, disintegrating beneath me, and then throwing me unceremoniously to the pavement below.
This fear is compounded by the fact that I'm still learning how to maintain my own bike. Every time I touch something on my bike, I'm convinced it's going to come undone.
It's not that I'm completely uncoordinated, and it's positively not that I don't know how to use tools. I can do my own electrical work, but I am still learning the subtleties of how my bicycle fits together. The vague, 'tighten until not too loose but not too tight' instructions in every bike maintenance book should just say - 'it's trial and error stupid'.
Also, where in heck do all you bike people do your bike maintenance? I live in an apartment. There's no room.
Back to going downhill.
Twenty Five MPH is a nice round number, and my fear of it had a nice ring to it.
But then the Monmouth County Century happened, and in a classic case of necessity being the mother of invention, I broke the 25mph barrier.
I just couldn't worry about it. I was tired and cranky and the hills were too big not to take advantage of every iota of downhill momentum. I didn't even notice that it happened. I was going through my Cat-Eye after the ride and at max speed, for the first time ever, it said 28.5 mph.
Woo Hoo.
I was riding around Prospect Park the other day and as I came to the nice smooth downhill on the south side of the park, I dropped my hands, put my head down and watched my speedometer. 22...23...24... around this point I would normally give my brakes a little judicious tap, just to keep myself under my self imposed speed limit, but today, I was feeling daring. Zoom Zoom, let's go. 24.5...24.5...24...23...22...Huh?
All this time, and I never knew. I can't freewheel faster than 25 mph on that hill. It's not steep enough and I'm apparently not heavy enough. Guys blow by me all the time on that stretch of road and now I know why.

It's not that I've conquered my fear. I still feel like my bike is going to fly apart, I just start feeling the fear at a higher speed now - and I guess I have to find another hill.

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