Unmindful Biking by Yours Truly

At times I try to approach biking as a genuine mindfulness meditation. The immersion of self into the experience feels really wonderful when I get there.

At times, though, I'm immersed in something more like dumb-ass-ness. Three stories of times I was not 100% mindful on the bike:

Dumb #1

I'm 3rd in line (taking the lane) behind a car and a pick-up truck at a red light (westbound on Spokane Falls at Bernard, for you Spokanites--in front of FedEx Kinko's).

Light turns green. Car goes. Pick-up goes. I go.

I look down to check what gear I'm in or some such.

Car stops for unknown reason. Pick-up stops.

I run into back of pick-up, fall over, and scrape myself up badly enough that I'm still bleeding when I arrive at the meeting I'm going to.

Good news: The driver stopped to ask if I was okay and if I needed any help.

Dumb #2 (although I give myself lots of latitude on this one because of the cause)

I'm turning left onto the Southeast Boulevard bike lane from our street. As is our ritual whenever one of us leaves and the other is still at home, Sweetest Husband is on the front porch waving to me.

I make sure it's safe to make the left turn but.... in my love for my sweetheart and my desire to wave back, I manage to take the turn a little too wide, clip the curb, and fall over, scraping my knee. (There is a theme here.)

Good news: Sweet Husband didn't see my fall so he didn't have to be all alarmed and rush to my rescue. However, I may hear about this now.

Dumb #3 (could have been life-ending)

Sometimes--for some deeply masochistic reason--I ride at least part of the way up Stevens on the South Hill. It's a heart attack hill with four lanes that split into two two-lane roads, one climbing farther up the hill as Bernard, one swinging left and dropping down to join Grand Boulevard.

As I go more and more slowly up the hill I eventually give up and move to the sidewalk to push my bike up. Someday I'll climb the whole thing again--I used to ride up Bernard on a heavy old big-box special I called the Iron Maiden.

For the record it's a 6.8 percent climb for this particular stretch, from Fourth Avenue up to Ninth. If you search for a Google Maps route on this stretch with the Bike option they don't put you on Washington at all; they quite wisely send you up the much quieter side street Bernard, where your huffing and puffing aren't slowing people on a four-lane arterial.

As the lefthand lanes swing left they also top out. This is a relatively blind corner for drivers who are accelerating up the hill on a major arterial.

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Like an idiot--and I have done this more than once and lived to tell the tale--instead of continuing to push my bike on the sidewalk at this point I get into the lane, clip in and start riding again.

I do always check to make sure no cars are coming. Since there's a traffic light a couple of blocks down it's relatively easy to recognize a burst of traffic and wait for it to pass so you're in a clear zone. But that's no guarantee as traffic can come from side streets out of sight around the corner.

On one particular occasion--the last time I ever did this maneuver--I had trouble getting started pedaling after I'd clipped in and almost fell over before I could get my foot free to catch myself.

My pulse raced beyond anything I've achieved on a hill climb as I realized how easily I could have died if a driver had come whipping uphill around that blind corner just then.

Good news: I learned the lesson without paying the ultimate price. Never again.

Your turn

I've confessed some of my dumb-ass-ness. What near-miss did you have that shook you out of some of your less mindful or more careless/complacent biking habits?

This post inspired by Space Monkey=Me on Kent's Bike Blog.

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  1. Almost exactly the same as your first incident: light turned green, we all proceeded, US Postal truck stopped to turn right into a parking lot but couldn't because traffic coming out blocked his entry, I ran into the back of the truck. Mangled front wheel, busted helmet, split open my knuckle, bruised shoulder, and a chunk of my knee cap is still loose and floating. Gross. On the plus side, since the postal truck is right-hand drive, all the worker had to do was lean out the window and ask if I was okay as I lay splayed out on the sidewalk.

  2. Here's mine: While out on a training ride earlier this summer, the leaders sprint up a short climb and gets strung-out on the tight, technical downhill that follows. I'm second and chasing the lead who just made the sharp left halfway downhill. After making the apex the road curves to the right.

    I'm carrying plenty of speed from the hill but not enough to bridge. I come out of the saddle and pile-it-on. As I enter the right-hand sweeper I realize that my momentum will carry me off the road once I pass the new apex.

    I'm counter-steering and feathering the brakes like crazy in order to scrub-off some speed. My front tire starts to scrub and oscillate more and more. If I don't get this under control I'm going to be a 30mph+ grease stain on the road.

    I get lucky and am able to pull it out just past the curve.

    Jacks my pulse just thinking about it. Next time I'll have more discretion.

  3. Ugh, Alan, at least all the parts of my kneecaps are still where they belong! Yours was a lot worse than mine, it sounds like.

    As for EricRacesBikes.... So now we're even, Dear Husband. You can picture me bleeding on the sidewalk, I can picture you shooting off the road (or becoming a grease stain on it) on some steep S-curve.


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