Cyclist’s First …

There are some milestones that every cyclist experiences: first time riding to work, first time riding in the rain, first time yelling at a driver, etc. Warm and fuzzy memories. Today, Melissa experienced her first time yelling at a driver: “Thanks for almost hitting me!!!!” He totally deserved it for nearly side-swiping her. This is generally a positive development, I think. It means the cyclist is becoming confident with her skills and space on the road: she knows who’s at fault. My first time yelling at a driver was after he ran a stop sign, nearly hitting me before slamming on his brakes: “HEEEEY! Stop at the stop sign! Please.” I was more scared than angry and my consolation was that the female passenger had a look of terror on her face. Made me feel a little better.

Here are some happy pictures from Melissa, who is still going strong with Smurfette. She cycles to work most days, happy to leave the frustrating car commute behind! (Read about her beginning here.)

Smurfette Says Hi

Smurfette Says Hi


Cyclist's First Panda Shot!

Do you remember your first time yelling at a driver?

Do you have any other milestones to add to the “cyclist’s first” list?

Let’s hear them!

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40 thoughts on “Cyclist’s First …

  1. Sarah says:

    Yay for Melissa going strong on her bicycle commuting!

    I have another first: first time making a proper left turn, where you actually move over to the left turn lane like a car instead of crossing two ways at the crosswalk. A mirror helps immensely with feeling confident about doing this. And I admit that there are times when I still cross two ways at a crosswalk, even with my mirror.

  2. Yesterday it was raining in Boston, and I took my bike on some errands. The previous day I had just been musing how reasonable the drivers were compared to what I had been expecting. But the rain seemed to bring out the worst out in the drivers. I saw several near-collisions between cyclists and cars that terrified me. And as I was cycling down a quiet and very narrow 1-way street, suddenly there was a car behind me — speeding, in the rain — and honking at me. Even if I wanted to get out of the way, I couldn’t have; the street was too narrow. So finally, I turned around and yelled “What?” directly at the driver. The woman behind the wheel looked stunned, and I kept riding calmly until I could turn right at the intersection and get the heck away from her. So I guess that was my first yell.

  3. anna says:

    Another cool first thing is “cycling more than 100km a day”. My butt remembers my first such cycling experience ;-).

  4. Kaitlin says:

    I just had a first yesterday. I got my first flat tire. I haven’t been a daily commuter until this year, but I have been a fairly avid recreational biker before this year and all of my friends thought I was some kind of freak of nature for not ever having a flat. But now I finally feel fully indoctrinated. Luckily, my boyfriend has had many flats and helped me patch my tube.

    Also, most people with clipless pedals (which I have on my “fast” bike) have a first time falling straight over because they didn’t unclip before stopping. Luckily for most, the first time is the last (although this happened to me three times before I got the hang of it, but I’m a pretty big klutz).

    • Aaron says:

      You can minimize your chances of a flat considerably. It’s worth spending a few extra bucks on tires for reliability. Consider the Continental Gatorskin series (at least 32mm for commuting), the Continental Touring Plus, or equivalent tires. Get them with the wire bead (as opposed to the folding kind) to save some money at the cost of a little extra weight. I put on a fair number of miles each year, including through bicycle touring, and I basically never get an undeserved flat. I got a deserved flat on my last tour because I let the tread on my rear tire wear down almost to the threads (its profile was rectangular instead of circular). So after approximately 2000 miles on that tire, its first flat was the signal that it needed to be replaced. My first tour ever was with my brother, who had a pretty mediocre bike — and thus run-of-the-mill tires — at the time. His flats: 3; mine: 0.

      Also, a cheap and effective trick (which you might already know) is to split an old tube and lay it against the inside of the tire before remounting it, providing a buffer between the tire wall and the tube. I don’t do this on good tires, but it helps on mediocre ones.

      • Kaitlin says:

        Thanks for the advice. My tires must be pretty good because I’ve gone a few thousand miles on mine and this is my first flat.

      • dottie says:

        I swear by my Schwalbe Marathons – no flats, both bikes. And I ride over a lot of glass in the city.

      • Doohickie says:

        I’ve been using Mr. Tuffy tire liners with good results. That way you can spend a little less on tires and still get the protection. When you wear out a tire, you don’t have to replace it with a really expensive one- you can simply take the Mr. Tuffy out of the old tire and put it in the new one.

  5. Jessie says:

    I just rode my bike to work for the first time this morning! Well, to clarify, I used to ride my bike to work when I lived in New Haven, but that was only about a mile. In Nashville, my commute is about 5 miles, from East Nashville to Vanderbilt. Actually, I just stumbled across this blog last week, and I was totally inspired, particularly by the fact that Trisha lives in Nashville, and that both of you are just regular girls and not total gearhead distance bikers (or at least you weren’t when you started). So this past weekend I bought a helmet, and today I did the ride. It actually went perfectly! I probably won’t do it every day (my boyfriend and I carpool most days), but I definitely plan to try to do it a couple of days a week! Thanks, Trisha and Dottie!

  6. Kaitlin says:

    Way to go Jessie! 5 miles is a nice distance. That’s how far my commute is from my apartment. Once I got into the habit of doing it, I’m actually a little disappointed that my boyfriend lives only a mile from my place of work. Now, when I stay with him (which is quite often), I only have a mile to get to work and it usually doesn’t even seem long enough.

  7. Larry says:

    Scary first, the first time you crash and relize that no matter how careful you are it still isn’t enough. I had my first bad crash commuting this week. A moment of inattention and the bike hit a raised piece of metal on a wet roads. The bike was going down before I could do anything. My biggest fear after hitting the road was the traffic coming from behind us. We were fortunate that the traffic behind us was able to stop and neither of us were hurt badly (we were on a tandem).

    Please be careful out there, but keep riding.

  8. The first time I got hit by a car was way back in my early teens. I was biking home on a narrow 2 lane road outside of St. Cloud. It was always very windy because it was farm land. Sometimes the wind would get so strong that I would turn out into the road and circle back around, to take a break from it. Usually, I would look back first, but this time without looking, I started to turn out. Wham! This old car hit my front wheel, going very fast. He did stop to see if I was alright and gave me a ride home. After the shock wore off, I was pissed off about it. He hadn’t moved over at all(less than 2 feet) and was driving 40 or 50 mph. If I had turned a fraction of a second earlier, I’m sure would have died. Now, I just look at it as a warning to be more careful. It definitely made me much more cautious about what’s behind me. Don’t assume other people know what they’re doing. Actually, I think it’s the only time I’ve been hit by a car. I’ve hit a few, though, sometimes with my foot.

    That Kabuki looks great!

  9. Cyclin Missy says:

    First time falling over while trying to stop or start. LOL

  10. sara says:

    First time wearing a skirt while bike commuting…

    Love Smurfette’s flowers.

    • Doohickie says:

      I haven’t tried that one yet. I’m not sure the other guys in the office would understand.

  11. E A says:

    I usually am scared speechless and as a result do not typically yell at the cars who cut me off or nearly hit me. But I find it ironic that you post about this topic, since I just started yelling at cars last week. Unfortunately I don’t feel good coming off as mean — it’s more the need to be heard and getting the words out through my own sheer terror.

    But last week I was nearly doored by a guy getting out of a cab into the bike lane – Yikes! And then a Mercedes cut me off — pulled right into the bike lane (you know… his “space”) – gr! And I yelled. My hope is that my yell shook them up enough to consider their actions in the future.

  12. Melissa Hope S says:

    EA. I am usually too shook up to yell at drivers too. This isn’t the first time I’ve been wronged by a driver. One woman raised her hands at me after she cut me off. I was soo scared….I barely rode straight!

    • Michael D says:

      I still get scared and usually spend the ride back questioning my maneuvers. I have the bad habit of wondering why I am being interpreted as the bad guy.

  13. H says:

    I have a firsts to add. First time being hit (or almost) by a car…sadly I feel this eventually happens to any one who cycles on streets enough. It happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Classic getting hit by a right turning vehicle. And it was a hit and run. Didn’t get the morons plate either.
    Since it might be inevitable :WEAR A HELMET you’ll be glad you were smart when you fly onto someone’s windshield. :)

    • dottie says:

      Almost every time I read about a cyclist or pedestrian being hit by a driver, it’s a hit and run. What is wrong with people?! Glad you’re okay.

  14. Catherine says:

    Hrm, most of mine have been covered here (commuting to work, yelling at a car, bike problems (my seat fell off!) ).

    I guess I could say that I’ll never forget my first experience with Angry Entitled Driver. I was on my street, a half block from home at a red light. I was taking up the whole lane because I was about to turn left into my alley–about 50 feet after the light. Also note: no one can make a right turn on red at this light because it’s a one-way street. In short, I’m almost home, minding my own busniess and getting in the way of NO ONE because there’s nothing anyone can do at this light but wait.

    Suddenly, a few cars behind me I hear yelling. I think it’s just someone recognizing someone else on the street and calling out to them. I hear yelling again. I think maybe someone recognizes ME. I turn around, see no one. Light turns green. I start to ride straight through the light. A car or two behind me turns left at the light. I suddenly sense that there’s a car nearly on top of me. I turn left into my alley, because the thing is so close that this whole thing took maybe 15 seconds, and the car that was on my tail steps on the gas *barely* after I’d made the turn. The driver screamed “THANK YOU” out the window in a mean, scarcastic way. She’d apparently been screaming at me at the light, too.

    What she was saying, I don’t know. How exactly I was holding her up at the light, I don’t know. Why we need to behave this way on residential side streets with speed limits of 25mph, I don’t know. How she’s more entitled to the road, I’ll really never know ((a) Share the Road and all but (b) I LIVE on that street in Northern Virginia, and she had DC plates). But it was scary, and it made me wish that I’d known that she was yelling at me at the light because I would have parked my bike and gone back to explain to her that I was turning in 50 feet, that it’s my road too, and tell her she should consider therapy. Hrmph.

  15. E A says:

    I think cycling is our therapy… it is for me (even amidst the dangers we face)

  16. Doohickie says:

    …first time yelling at a driver, etc. Warm and fuzzy memories.

    Oh yeah baby, good times….. good times. ;- )

    I think the first time I took the lane in traffic stands out. I mean really took it. I had read about this vehicular cycling stuff but I was still kind of a wilting gutter bunny. I took the lane on the last busy street before my house. I DID IT! The next day, I did it again! And someone buzzed me, almost hitting my handlebar with her mirror. I was so PO’ed. I was also pretty sure VC wasn’t for me, and went back to my gutter bunny ways. For some reason, that just made me feel resentful and angry. So one day about a week later, I. TOOK. THE. WHOLE. FREAKIN’. LANE. I got in the left tire track and controlled that lane. The cars gave me plenty of room, and I’ve been riding vehicularly more and more ever since. Empowerment is an overused word, a word that makes me cringe, but it exactly describes what taking the lane did for me.

  17. Karen says:

    Ugh! I hate having to yell but sometimes it is called for. My first yell occurred while stilll a recreational cyclist. I was living in Louisville and riding through Cherokee Park. As I approached the turn off to the Crescent Hill neighborhood a large, white SUV driven by what I could only imagine was a “soccer mom” passed me and made a right turn directly in front of me. As fast as I was traveling at quite a clip, I easily could have struck the side of her vehicle (in which she was carrying her children) and been killed or seriously injured. I yelled. I believe I used profanity and numerous hand gestures. That’s my story.

  18. Capateto says:

    I’m sharing this story only as an example of what NOT to do, but …

    When I lived in New Orleans I was nearly run off the road by the driver of one of those muscle trucks (like the Dodge Ram) whose mirror clipped my shoulder blade. I was riding in the breakdown lane of a barrier-divided county highway (only we call them parish highways down there) and it was clear to me that the driver was out of his lane. It hurt like hell, too, but I wasn’t knocked off the bike or anything, so I intended to keep riding. I noticed the truck had pulled over a little way up the road, and I thought the driver and his passenger (probably his wife) were concerned for my well-being and wanted to be sure I was alright. But when I pulled alongside the truck (on the driver’s side since I now had no room in the breakdown lane) the driver practically spat on me when he said, ” why don’t you f*&^ing stay off the road?”

    Before I knew it, I’d reached down for my nearly full water bottle with my left hand and threw it at him, hitting him square on the mouth with it.

    I only escaped because I rode like mad against traffic and, after about a minute or two of fierce pedaling, stopped to turn around and continue traveling with the flow of traffic until I could get off the road. I was sure that driver was going to double back as soon as he could make the U-turn, but luckily I never saw him again.

    I think that sort of encounter is a good way to get oneself killed, though, and I’ve been careful to never again have a similar encounter.

  19. Soc says:

    A first for me was when I was enjoying my ride so much, I went right by the place I was supposed to be. Luckily I was early enough that I arrived on time even after turning around and doubling back along my route.

  20. Sox says:

    I’m sorry if my comment appeared incorrectly. I can only see half of my computer screen right now.

  21. I’ve had a few firsts in the past year: some unfortunate ones like my first accident (while in a bike lane on a slight downhill, midday, green light, car turning from the opposite lane pulled into my path and I plowed into the side of the car, unable to stop).

    However, a better first would have to be my first time surfing the back of an Xtracycle (my own, with someone else pedaling), which happened only a few weeks ago. So fun…

  22. lorenza says:

    hello! I have been reading for long while but first time I am leaving a comment :)

    I have been riding more regularly and commuting since only few months. I have very frequent ‘near misses’ on a daily basis as in manchester (uk) cyclists not only have to beware of cars but also of double decker buses! Anyhow… first time I yelled (I actually swore, very embarrassed, which I never never do, but it scared me to death) was at a driver who after parking the car, badly, opened his door without checking his mirrors, and I stopped few cm away from smashing into the door! My heart did stop for a second…

    I am glad I wear an helmet, I have to really. This is why I don’t still quite understand copenhagencyclechic strong adversity to them (although I still like the blog’s cycle chic inspiration!!)… if only we had the 2.5m wide dedicated cycling lanes like in Copenhagen… ;)

    anyway, I have recently got my Pashley and I am enjoying cycling even more!! :D bit of yelling when necessary doesn’t hurt anyone right?!

    • dottie says:

      I yell when I need to – no shame. Thanks for leaving a comment. Speak up any time, we love to hear from people. If you want to send us a pic of you and your new Pashley and more on your history with cycling, that would be cool, too :)

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