I want to (learn to) ride my bicycle

[Shebee]: Something magnificent happened on Sunday.  Something so magnificent I didn’t even tweet about it, I saved all of it just for this blog post.  Because as fun and easy as it is for me to tease Jon, he decided he’d rather tease himself, in his own words.  And so, for the first time ever on this here blog, someone else has written a post.  The most important someone else in my world, Jon.  Without further delay, here’s what he has to say:

Sheena has been insisting that I do a short blog post for her for quite some time now. The ultimatum was that if I don’t write about this incident that she would. And you guys have been subjected to enough of her one-sided exaggerations for long enough. It’s time I had a voice and told a story about me in my own words…

I tend to get quite obsessed with new things – my running being a great example of that. I started with one 10km race… then completed another… then another… oh look, a half marathon. This obsessive nature is naturally fuelled by another trait of mine… FOMO. So you can imagine what happened once I’d found out about a growing cycling community around me – both work and personal friends were all into it. Must. Start. Cycling.

So, I borrowed a bike. I hadn’t ridden in quite a few years. In fact I think the last time I’d ridden was back when I was in primary school. I recall riding all over Victory Park where I grew up; Delta Park was a favourite riding trail of mine. On my BMX. Let’s let that sink in a bit – one-speed, kiddy-size, BMX.

The transition from BMX to mountain bike was not, as you’d expect, smooth. Suddenly I have gears and a much more sissified sense of “I don’t want to hurt myself”. A sane person would practice a few times by themselves, get used to it again. But I’m obsessive, remember? No, I have to do a Critical Mass to “get into it”. 1,000+ riders all around me, riding extremely closely together, in the middle of Jo’burg city, at night. Insane! I survived unscathed and terribly proud of myself.


A few Braamfontein Spruit rides, and a few visits to Northern Farm, and I’m now hooked. Up until this point, I was happy to use a borrowed bike but it was now time to get my own shiny, new, precioussss. Analytical obsession meant it took over three weeks to actually pick one I liked, but I finally got it last Sunday. The Merida BIG NINE TFS 900, I love it.


It would be an otherwise smooth transition from the borrowed bike to this one, except one small extra feature – cleats. I thought it was small at the time, but fate would prove otherwise. I mean, how hard could clipping and unclipping into the bike really be? I assumed I would fall, once. Perhaps twice.

Sheena had a fantastic idea, that I should practice in the park down the road before hitting the road or proper mountain bike trails. Off we went to the park near our house; a wonderful dog-friendly park. The plan was that, should I fall, the grass would be a hell of a lot softer than falling on hard asphalt or sharp rocks [Sheena: EXCEPT HE SKIMMED THE GRASS AND KEPT CHOOSING CONCRETE PATHWAYS, ROCKY HILLS AND A SKATING RING!].

Balancing on my right leg, I clipped in my left foot. Unclipped. Okay, not so difficult. Clipped in and out a few times on the left, swapped to the right. No problem! Balancing on my left leg with the right clipped in, I chatted a bit to Sheena’s little brother Wok I learnt the lesson of shifting point in gravity, specifically toward the side with the clipped in pedal.

Suddenly, I feel that I’m now falling down toward the right, and naturally I completely forget the unclip motion, reaching out in desperation for anything to hold onto that could stop my fall. As luck would have it, there was something within reach. A rubbish bin, that rotates on a pivot. One that looks like this:


Except it wasn’t empty like this one is, oh no.  It was full.  Filled with chicken, gravy, spinach, bubblegum and unidentifiable liquids. And of course, this bin was made to easily empty out… and it was emptying out on me!

I was on the ground.
Bike on top of me.
Garbage on top of both of us.
… and still clipped in, just to add insult to injury.

Sheena stared in horror, saw that I was only emotionally damaged, turned to her brother and bit into her lips, bless her for controlling her laughter until she thought I was just out of earshot (I wasn’t) before breaking down into fits of snorts and giggles.

My ego forced me to get back onto that bike and continue the battle with aforementioned cleats, determined to win them over. I did. Smelling of garbage, sweat and humiliation, I walked out of that park the victor.

And despite the fact that my riding skills are somewhat… rubbish… right now, I am training up to do the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge! I meant it when I said I get obsessive.  Any advice for me?


  1. Robi27 says:

    Hahaha! The visuals are just too good.

    Although, coming from someone who never learned how to ride a bike (I know), I do give you a blog badge of honour!

    Hope this won’t be the last, Jon.

  2. Stef says:

    Oh my greatness! I love cycling woohoo 🙂 I’ve decided to leave the cleats for now, running shoes works fine, and believe me you fall more than you would expect. I fell twice my first race. S much happening and so fast that thinking about I clipping is just too much. Enjoy, dare I say cycling is even better than running. Next stop—> iron man 🙂

  3. Stef says:

    Oh my greatness! I love cycling woohoo 🙂 I’ve decided to leave the cleats for now, running shoes works fine, and believe me you fall more than you would expect. I fell twice my first race. So much happening and so fast that thinking about I clipping is just too much. Enjoy, dare I say cycling is even better than running…. Next stop—> iron man 🙂

  4. Jacques says:

    Boet, well done for the effort, that is where it all starts…

    Yes you will fall, I have been cycling for MANY years, and yes, believe it or not, I still fall sometimes. But as I have told you before, there are two types of cyclists, those that have fallen, and those that are still to fall… As time progress, you just learn to fall with style ;-). Even the elites fall.

    It is how quick you get up and brush off the dust that showes your determination, and take it from me, that you have a lot of.

    Two thumbs up!!!

  5. alida says:

    The thing about cycling with cleats is they’ll always find a way to get you 🙂

    When I first started out I managed to get clipped in with no hassle and thought to myself “hey look at me being all super and stuff”. I rode around the block and got to a stop street. Pulled on my brakes. Stopped. And keeled over to the side in slow motion.

    Flash forward about 5 years. There I am at the start of the 94.7 in the racing ladies bunch with all the pros and the TV cameras that follow them. The countdown starts and next thing we’re off. Correction, they were off while I cleated in, cleated out, cleated in, cleated out and then decided to carry on with just one leg until my brain could engage. A few weeks later when they ran the special on SuperCycling they decided not to just film the front ladies but the whole bunch rolling through the start. My cyclist friends started ragging me within 2 seconds of that being aired.

    So now that one of my greater idiot moments has been relived, some advice for the 94.7? Save a little for the N14 because its a bit windy usually and by then you’ll have quite a few kilos in your legs. Above all enjoy the vibe. The crowds on the side of the road will make you feel like you’re winning the TdF and if you wave and greet them they tend to go absolutely berserk to cheer you on.

    • Jon says:

      Rather your friends rag you about not clipping in than falling? 😉

      The more I hear about the 94.7, the more excited I get about it. Am definitely going to register on 5 March when it opens. That way I’m committed and forced to train properly for it.

      The race passes so close to the house that I expect Sheena to set up a cheer leading group for me as I pass by!

  6. Shaun says:

    Dude, I would have paid money to see that go down, what a lol.
    Oh and great post the best one I’ve read on this blog 😉

  7. Jon says:

    There is a short epilogue to the story. Bergen, Gary and myself went for an inaugural ride yesterday afternoon along the Spruit (affectionately known as “Braamies”). What an awesome ride we had!

    I managed not to fall once… but rather “came off the bike” three times 😛 (apparently one graduates from “falling” to “coming off”), and have a new battle wounds to prove my masculinity *flex*.

    At one particular point I managed to “come off”, still be cleated in, and holding the bike upright, but upside down, on top of me. Alas, they weren’t quick enough to snap up some photographic evidence…. *whew*.

    Thanks for all the encouragement everyone, really appreciate it. Here’s to practising away my rubbish riding skills!

  8. Martinette Hattingh says:

    LOL….There’s one advantage of my bike at home (in front of the TV and it doesn’t fall over) :)… But let your obsession drive you, practice and maybe don’t stand next to the trash bin the next time.

  9. Louisa says:

    Usually I’d say hang in there, but here I guess it would be better to let go (unclip). 😉
    I’m sure you’ll get used to them quickly.

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