Since I am the over thinkingest thinker to ever think I decided to do a little research and delve into what it is exactly I’m so afraid of. As I google searched, I found that this phobia is called “cyclophobia.” And no, I’m not joking here. It’s a real thing and I think I have it. Sort of. Ugh. Let me explain.
Sunday, I had a planned ride with Strawberry E. I had talked about it and thought about it all day. I really need to ride. I need to get a ride in. I should really ride my bike. I haven’t ridden all week. If I ever want to get better on the bike, I had better get my butt in the saddle. These were the thoughts that pervaded my brain all damn day.
I hadn’t ridden since last Saturday’s race and was dreading it with every hour that passed. I even called Strawberry E to back out at the last minute but alas, she didn’t answer her phone. I had no choice but to show up and ride with her. We planned to meet where the BRA runners would be starting and stopping and I kept thinking about them being there. I saw myself toppling over and the feeling of embarrassment washed over me.
We got going on our ride and once we got started I felt OK but still had the creeping thoughts of falling. I kept going over and over in my mind how to get off the bike when we decided to end our ride in front of all of those runners (some of whom were also cyclists). I went back and forth on how long of a ride to do and finally decided to cut it short due to the heat. And partly because I just wanted to end the mental anguish and get the stopping over with.
Our ride ended just about the time that the runners got back. Strawberry E pulled into the parking lot and stopped with ease. I, on the other hand, had to focus so much and was so afraid of falling that my legs were shaking. When I finally unclipped my right foot and set it down my left leg was shaking so badly that I almost pulled msyelf down trying to unclip that foot. I tried to play it off and hoped that no one had noticed.
This is what happens to me almost every time I ride. It takes a huge amount of mental effort for me to get out to ride and it’s only lessened when I know I’m riding alone. But even then, it’s an inner struggle the entire ride. I’m preoccupied by thought about cars forcing me to stop or animals scurrying in front of me that I can barely enjoy myself. I have found that the more often I ride the easier it gets but once I take too many consecutive days off – wham! I’m back in anxiety land.
I have completed five triathlons and a couple of rides over 30 miles. Surely a person with cyclophobia couldn’t have done this stuff right? Wrong. Remember the one I almost didn’t finish? Yeah, that was because of the bike. Mostly, I get through the bike portion of the tri by just gutting it out. I think about the bike more than I think about the run and the swim put together. When I looked up the fear of bikes I found that most of it stems from either childhood falls or plain old fear of cars and traffic and injury and so on.
Yes, I had an accident as a kid where I ran into a moving car. No, I was not hurt, but I was very shaken up and embarrassed. In addition, I feel very uncoordinated every time I stop. And of course, the first time I got on with the clipless pedals I fell right over. In front of a group of very seasoned riders. And again, I was very embarrassed. Anyone who knows me, knows that I HATE being embarrassed. Not to say I embarrass easily, cause lord knows I’m too much of a goofball for that. But it would seem the my fear stems more from fear of embarrassment then it does of being afraid of getting hurt, although that’s thrown in as well.
A smart man told me he thinks my bike issues are all in my head. I have argued with him that it’s an ability thing, that my legs just aren’t strong enough, that I’m built differently…but now that I look at this psycho-babbling post, I’m starting to think he’s right. And after reading this post there does seem only one solution right?
Ride the bike. And ride it often. And stop thinking about who sees me fall. Who cares? I do. A little. Ok, fine. I’ll work on that too. Paging Dr. Freud!
Honestly, I wrote this for myself because I needed to get it out. I’ve been feeling like it’s a dirty secret and I shouldn’t be ashamed of it. I don’t care if anyone thinks I’m being a baby or being silly. I know it sounds odd but I really do have anxiety before I get on the bike and I can only hope that by putting this out there someone will stumble upon it and not feel ashamed that they get sweaty palms and the poopy cramps before they get on the bike too. Hey, us crazy people gotta stick together.