Learning to Love the Bike Again

L-ankle 6-21Two years ago my husband crashed on his (and mine) first mountain bike ride and broke his leg in a couple of places. After surgery, physical therapy and two years of letting the injury heal (and grow accustomed to the new hardware in his ankle) I finally convinced him to join me on a bike ride.

He’s not allowed to mountain bike ever again per doctor’s orders, but he can hop on a road bike, which finally made its way to our little corner of Southeast Asia. On Sunday I drove us to one of the local group’s meeting spots after breakfast.

Like an idiot, the first ride I dragged him on was to go to the top of one of the mountains here, a route I ride frequently (and did this morning). However, I remember what it was like the first time I climbed it, having not ridden for only a couple of months, and it was pretty bad. Between the challenge of the climb, the heat and humidity and uncertainty of my fitness, I barely made it up without a break. Now, imagine not riding for two years on top of all of that, and you can understand why we only got to the first switchback before retreating to the car.

I definitely tried to push him a tad too far the first ride out, but when we got home we rode around a bit more, where it’s flat. This seems to be a good approach, but I need some help. It’s been years since I had to ease myself back into riding again, and I’m not sure how I should plan his reemergence into cycling. If any of the Loving the Bike community have had to get back into riding or brought someone else into the sport, I would love to hear your story.

- Ashley

  • Eric Hutchins

    I have heard more than once from a host of good riders that “you will crash, its just a matter of when”. I personnally had some really horrific ones which I wont go into detail but know that only for powers beyond my understanding am I typing this right now (or incredibly good luck I guess).
    Anyway, For me it was just taking a little back each time after bad wrecks. First getting on stationaries and getting a little strength up ( i think this is important so that those first few rides back after a bad crash you are not thinking about how terrible you feel and focused on the wrong things). You need to feel confidient, and able to push a little (and I mean simply to be able to climb a short incline without fear of falling over,as much as anything else).
    Then take it out to very quiet very easy rides. Preferibly ones with beautiful scenary that help remind you I why you like riding so much in the first place.
    Good Luck, have fun, love the bike.

  • Roadrider

    Sorry to hear abaout the crash. I own an MTB and a road bike. So far I have stuck with the road and after reading your blog, I’ll continue with that plan. I hear that mountain biking is all about encountering the unexpected and mastering it. Just too much risk for me…

    • http://aerochick.com/ Ashley

      Did you read my previous post about learning to MTB? I just got into it a couple of weeks ago, and last week had more hours on the MTB than the road bike, and I race on the road!

      It’s definitely fun to go off-road, utilizing other muscle groups and skill sets. The initial cause of my husband’s crash was a combination of incorrect bike for the terrain, as well as weather and lack of daylight, so please don’t let me stop you from hopping on your MTB.

      As far as encountering the unexpected, I ride the same trail everytime on my MTB. My goal is not trying to master the unexpected, but to improve my technique on what I already know, as well as not have to hop off and push as often ;)

  • Jonathan Dury

    Great story and great question. I was in the same boat about 18 months ago. Except mine was on a road bike, I fell, broke my leg (crushed the femur) and ended up in emergency surgery to have three 4 1/2 screws installed. I didn’t have quite the recovery time (only 3 months), and was told by the doc I am allowed to ride anything I would like. I think the best thing you can do for him is allow him to decide when and how much he wants to get back into it. Like the other poster, I think, as you plan rides, make sure they are within his ability and desire, but also make them fun. He may be afraid (as I was), but the only way to lose that fear is to do it more and build confidence. Another option to get stronger and build confidence is to ride a stationary bike or an indoor trainer. Both of those will build leg, lung and heart strength which will help the comfort level when back outdoors. Nothing can replace the feeling of riding outside (whether mountain or road), but improved fitness levels will help the transition.

    If he loves riding and wants to continue, he will. Since my wreck, I have ridden over 3,000 miles, ridden in two century rides and countless hours of MTB… I do it because I enjoy it and it is fun! Just go slow and let him dictate the difficulty level.

    • http://aerochick.com/ Ashley

      Thanks Jon! I’m going to set up my trainer with his bike in the house so it’s readily available.

  • Sportainability International

    In the days of great immediate gratification and desire to just “get er’ done”, often people miss the healthy and sustainable approach to exercise, fitness and most of all- FUN. This certainly is a near miss in the line of fun. Our body and lives change over time. What we once accomplished is not necessarily muscle memory.
    I’m a firm believer of learning to always be a conscious and curious participant. Moving with greater awareness, which leads to a much more involved sort of fun. Something that you crave to always pick up and further nurturing exploration.
    Running and biking are both sports that once put away, for a short time, we loose fitness, technique and mind-set. Running and Biking (add many other outdoors sporting venues) can become therapeutic for the mind, if done for the right reasons.
    I suggest, starting simple. Learn to love the feel of the wheels spinning freely and focusing on the legs participation, your breath and the views. Make it a ride to breakfast on a sunday ride and about sucking in your husbands company. Build the miles/time in a fun and healthy way. Avoid climbs and hills as a mission. Learn to breath through your diaphragm and teach the body how it’s done again. Biking will become easier again and you will find yourself charging the hills again, with even a lower peak heart rate. But when reaching the top….. you’ve further driven yourself to carry on and find the next summit, with your best friends in tow. Ending with a cold beer, delicious meal and great company. Few are training to win the tour… be mindful of your desire to create this passion, for you, which appears to be cycling.

    As a long time health science and sports educator in the community, I see many people chase themselves away, because of ‘hard-work’. Never let it become hard work… but a chosen shift to challenge yourself in something you’re passionate with. Biking is a reminder to still slow down, feel the glide and occasionally letting yourself soar, when you’re ready. Grow your wings… the soaring will happen.

    • http://aerochick.com/ Ashley

      Hey thanks for the reply! I’ll pass along your comments as it really gets back to the whole idea of loving the bike.