Have you ever been fishing, hooked and lost what you knew was a big one, because you had the drag set a bit too tight? That's what ran through my mind as I knelt beside the road and retied my shoe.
Normally, I'm pretty meticulous when I tie my shoes, particularly my riding shoes. I make sure that any extra shoelace is positioned to the side of my shoe opposite the cranks. Today though - the sun was shining - the thermometer registered 78 F and I was anxious to break the bonds of work and RIDE! As soon as the whistle blew, I slung off the steel toes, haphazardly threw on the riding shoes and I was out the door.
The first couple of miles were uneventful. It wasn't until I was riding through Huntington Park that the error of my ways manifested itself. I was midway up a small incline when I noticed an ever burgeoning tightness that grew on my left foot with each pedal stroke. Being the experienced commuter that I am, I immediately ascertained the precariousness of my plight. My shoe lace had become entangled with my pedal. The noose was tightening with each pedal stroke. On a free wheel bike, the exacerbation of this problem is easily remedied - STOP PEDALING! On a fixed gear bike - since the motion of the pedals is intricately and unequivocally entwined with the revolution of the wheels - extricating oneself from this troublesome scenario is infinitely more difficult.
If you want to stop the shoe lace from wrapping around the pedal - stop pedaling!
If you want to stop pedaling - stop the wheel from turning!!
If you want to stop the wheels from turning - stop the bike!!!
The tricky part is executing the aforementioned actions before:
A. The shoe string snaps in two or
B. The shoe string tears your shoes or
C. Your pedal motion and wheel locks up.
I grabbed both brakes for all I was worth and waited to see which option manifested itself. Lucky for me, I was going no more than 12 mph at a cadence of 50 rpm and was able to stop in time to preclude any escalation of problems. I slowly pushed the bike backwards, unwinding my shoe laces, all the time grateful I wasn't racing along at a cadence of 90 to 100 rpm. The results could have been disastrous.
I don't mean to wax philosophically, but when encountering a near death experience, one can't help but be a bit introspective (OK - maybe the "near death" thing is a bit of an exaggeration - but this is my blog so I ought to be granted a bit of literary license). So here goes: Life is full of little happenstances that teach us: right and wrong - good and evil - fulfillment and brokenness - valor and recklessness - prosperity and poverty. That which differentiates the wise from the foolish is not the nature of our experiences, but what we learn from them.
I retied my shoes tight and carefully tucked the laces inside, opposite from the cranks.
Mark my word - from this point forward - that's how I'll always tie them - no matter how inviting the weather is.
Oh yea - this experience gave me yet another idea for a Cycling Affair trait:
"You may be having a Cycling Affair - if you tuck your shoelaces inside your shoes."