You Got This
Don’t let fear stop you from crushing your cycling goals! Here’s how four cyclists faced down what scared them most – and how you can do it too.
A large part of cycling is overcoming fear. Whether it’s of crashing, riding in traffic, or walking into the office wearing lycra ( gasp!). To fully enjoy the sport we love, at some point we have to do something about it. These riders overcame their biggest fears. Their stories will help you do the same.
"I DREADED TRAFFIC"
THE CAR BEHIND ME GROWLED. An SUV ahead had just stopped and reversed to parallel park. I braked clumsily between the two, panicking. “I don’t have a seat belt – or an airbag. I’m gonna die!”
At 43 years old, I was a novice, taking a new bike for a test ride from a bike shop in the city centre. I had learned to ride as a kid in the suburbs, but then my family moved into the heart of the city, where a prevailing fear of muggers and traffic meant that no-one in the area (at least, no-one I knew) cycled.
Fast forward to adulthood: a born-and-bred nervous wreck, I was tired of letting fear hold me back. I live near a beautiful bike path, which I had avoided for eight years because getting there involved navigating suburban traffic. I vowed to conquer my fear of cars in order to ride the path. But now, clutching my handlebar and blinking back tears, I waffled on my resolution.
The cars had moved around me, but the bike shop was still one treacherous block away – down a hill, through an intersection where a woman was pushing a pram and tourists were crossing on mountain bikes. I took a deep breath, pushed off, and somehow made it. Back at the shop, I told the owner, “I’ll take the bike. And learn to ride it.”
So I took some skills courses where I practised smooth turns and sudden stops, and learned to shift, signal, and scan for traffic. I practised in empty parking lots, then on the road with friends. When I first started riding, my mind was almost paralysed by thoughts of all that could go wrong. But building my skills was empowering. Knowing how to ride well enabled me to stop focusing on all the disaster scenarios. My selftalk changed from ‘I can’t’ to ‘You got this – just feather the brakes, signal, and you’re good!’
It’s been four years. In that time, I’ve ridden the path many times, and finished three triathlons. Riding in traffic may always feel a bit harrowing to me. But when I think of some of my happiest times – biking to a picnic spot with my kids, or with my husband, or by myself to the start of a triathlon – I’m proud of how much I’ve opened up my life.
WHAT SHE DID RIGHT GOT HELP The most powerful weapons against fear? Information and a sense of control, says Jeff Wise, author of ExtremeFear:The ScienceofYourMind
inDanger. By gaining knowledge and skills, Patty armed herself with both.