Dealing with the Unexpected

I haven’t had the chance to write any cycling articles for some time due to a series of unexpected events that kept me from cycling. Yesterday, I finally got out on a ride and ended up breaking my elbow.

I figured I’d write about this whole sequence of events as a meditation on dealing with the unexpected.

I’ll start with a ride attempt about a month ago when I blew the tube on my bike. I’d been waiting several weeks to get out due to some rainy weekends.

I’d found a cycling group on the Meetup app, and I drove to Boulder to join a 40-mile ride up Lefthand Canyon. After watching everyone in the group pull away from my clunky starter bike, I heard a pop as my tube busted.

I pulled over to change the tube, but I broke my CO2 inflator when I mishandled it in a spate of anxiety. Upon further examination, I realized my back tire, itself, was shot, as well as the tube.

I headed back with my tail between my legs. When I got home, I decided that I’d take the opportunity to upgrade to a better bike. I’d got a lot of usage out of my bike, but it was heavy and clunky. I was tired of getting passed by everyone.

I ordered a bike online that night. The next day, I got a call saying they’d already sold the bike before I made my order.

Very well. While searching online for a bike store that was open so I could buy new tires for my old bike, I went online and found a shop run out of the owner’s garage. They had a couple bikes listed, so I went to check one out.

The Trek Y Foil was made for two years in the late 90s before bikes without a seat tube were banned from competition. This is my new bike just after I brought it home.

That was how I got my new bike, a Trey Y Foil 66, which is a bit of a funky collector’s item. Once I got it home, I realized that the frame bags I had for my old bike wouldn’t fasten on the Y Foil’s thick frame.

It took me a couple weeks to figure out how I was going to manage carrying gear on the new bike. In the meantime, my roommate and friend, Mandi, was reaching a point in her recovery from a broken knee where she was ready to start riding.

I took the chance to test my bike while accompanying her on her first forays back into riding. It was good to offer that support, and it worked out for me to do shorter rides where I didn’t have to carry much.

We did a really wonderful 18-mile ride on the South Platte Trail near Chatfield Reservoir. We even rode up the hill to the top of the reservoir’s spillway. I was very impressed by Mandi’s effort. She is strong-willed in the best way!

Mandi and I pose for a picture at the southern end of the South Platte Trail in Denver, Colorado.

I had time in the couple weeks after buying the new bike to think about how I could carry water and other essentials for longer rides up to 100 miles. I settled on the idea of a larger hydration pack with storage capacity.

A few days ago, I pulled the trigger and went to REI on what turned into a whole shopping spree. I picked up a pack with a 3-liter bladder and about 20 liters of storage space. I also got clip shoes and pedals.

I’d recently gone to a climbing gym and loved it, so I picked up a pair of climbing shoes from the customer returns as well as a starter gear kit with a harness.

After a few tests with the clip pedals, I set out yesterday to ride to Golden, and, I was thinking, maybe do some climbing from there.. I packed 6.5 liters of water into my bag so I could test and challenge my legs on some inclines.

I was really impressed from the outset how much more power the clip pedals allow you to apply.

I breezed 16 miles from Denver to Golden, and then I tentatively decided to try climbing Lookout Mountain. I often start out tentative. It’s how I trick myself into doing tough rides.

I set into the climbing whilst being mentally prepared to turn back pretty much the whole way up the mountain.

The view looking East from about two-thirds of the way up Lookout Mountain.

I stopped at the first viewpoint pullout that I came to and snapped some pictures. I looked at the road on Strava and realized I was two-thirds of the way up the mountain. After a breather, I decided to keep going.

I was really happy with my performance with my bike on the climb. I averaged 7mph (11kph) most of the way up. I feel like I would have been doing half that on my old bike, maybe two-thirds.

I met a 73-year-old man near the top of the mountain. His name was Chuck, and he said he was on his 18th consecutive day of climbing the mountain. I’d passed him near the top on the way up, and he thanked me for motivating him to push harder.

I love the conversations you can have with fellow cyclists in the wild. They’re great learning opportunities for me as a novice!

After we chatted, I made my way down the mountain with some trepidation, as I was still getting used to the position of my break handles and the bike’s braking power.

It was after I got off the mountain and was headed back from Golden that I broke my elbow.

I came around a corner, following the trail as it went under an underpass, and a homeless man ran into the trail, leaving me no chance to react. I hit him at full speed and fell off my bike, landing on my elbow and breaking it.

Unfortunately, the homeless numbers have been swelling in our city due to a number of economic and social factors. The city bike trails are a common place to find the homeless, as it gives them mobility to transit around the city and shelter out of sight.

I checked that the homeless man was okay. He seemed fine, and wasn’t making a whole lot of sense. I was keen to get to safety, myself, so I fixed up my bike and rode off.

Later in the day, I went to urgent care to get an x-ray and got confirmation that my elbow was broken. So now I have completed this series of twists that led me from getting a new bike to being injured and unable to ride.

I’m contemplating for myself the need to meditate to accept this state of affairs and let go of my anguish over how things transpired. I had a lot of adventures planned for the summer. Now it looks like I’ll have an opportunity to do more reading, which I enjoy a lot.

I will have to work to find the silver lining in these events.

Published by Miles of Mindfulness

My name is Mike Bragg. I'm a Denver-based cycling enthusiast and a big advocate of mindfulness. I enjoy the outdoors, and I use mindfulness practices to help myself be more present with my adventures. I like to read challenging material, and I have a keen interest in ancient history and natural sciences.

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