So I’m supposed to be writing my final exam right now (yes, this very minute of right now) and be done with the two weeks of hellish studying and stressing. But instead I’m here writing because my professor failed to remember that he scheduled my final exam for me today. I’m quite angry about it because after two weeks of studying and working so hard, today was the day I can say that I’m finally done! That I’m free. So much for that huh… So instead of venting with remarks that would look very much like this: @#!~$%%^#$#!@#$!!!@%#% down the whole page, I thought I’d tell you about this bike course I took recently.
Yes many people thought I was crazy to be doing a three day course sandwiched in the middle of my final examinations, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t deny. St. John Ambulance is putting together a bike patrol unit and this bike course was to provide us with the skills to be able to bike confidently and safely to the scene to provide medical care, as well as survival skills. I was one of the lucky eight in the LMFV (Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley) to be selected and my Superintendent was nice enough to sponsor me. How could I have said no?
I had doubts in the beginning. The first day was all classroom time and everybody introduced themselves to each other. Everybody seemed so hardcore, many showing up in fancy bike gear, they were either former triathletes, or daily commuters who travels through different cities daily, ex-BMX riders, people who’ve ridden all the way down to the states and back, etc. Then it was my turn to introduce myself and my biking experience:
“I recently started biking again last year, and I bike recreationally, mostly on trails.”
Not even close to being hardcore. It also didn’t help when I recieved this in the email a week before the course from the instructor:
“Advise those taking the course that they really should have saddle time so that they’re not coughing up a lung or walking funny from the saddle rubbing in places they’re not expecting.”
When I read “coughing up a lung”, I thought seriously? Where and how far are you planning to make us bike to? Yeah my confidence kind of shrank to the size of a pea.
Things shifted on day two. We started off in the parking lot and practiced rock dodges, slaloms, emergency breaking, and the basic signals. Then we headed to the park and worked on curb hopping, approaching scenes, various bike carries, what to do in dangerous scenarios, where to position the bike to protect our patient/for crowd control, or to protect us from a violent patient. Then we hit the road and did a rural ride and also a brief urban ride. The riding and the skills placed me at ease. It was a lot of fun. I had no idea what I was worrying about.
Going into the course I didn’t know much about bikes. I’ve had my bike for 11 years, I probably only rode it for 2-3 years though. I thought my bike was pretty decent.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The course teaches how to maintain and check the quality of your bike to ensure it’s in tip top condition (you obviously don’t want your tire falling out while trying to reach a patient), and basic bike repairs. I felt like digging a hole and burying my bike and myself in it. I seemed to fail…or actually my bike seems to fail in almost every respect to a “good functioning” bike and a “proper fitting” bike. I discovered I needed new front brake cables, my chain was loose, the head was loose, the cogs need cleaning and perhaps even a replacement, I was surprised my bike didn’t fall apart during the riding portions of the course. However, the most embarassing part was that my bike frame didn’t fit me. How can you tell? Well when you stand with your bike in between your legs and you find yourself getting crotched…well…the pain will tell you. So why on EARTH do I have a bike with such a big frame? Well did I mention my bike was 11yrs old? I’m 23…so that means I’ve had that bike since I was 12. I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but it just happens that my Asian parents tend to lean towards that side. They thought I’d “grow into it”. Well unfortunately I never really did grow 😦 (seriously though, buy the right bike frame if you’re ever going to get a bike, it’ll save you a lot of pain and it’s also about safety!) ANYWAYS, I’m digressing….
There’s something about riding in heavy traffic on your bike in the middle of the road. Makes you feel like you own the road. It’s a great feeling. Also a great adrenaline rush. That’s exactly what we did on our last day. We went on the busiest roads with the most traffic, changing lanes, hogging left turn only lanes, riding as if you’re a motorcycle. We each got a turn to lead a group of five, using hand signals and calls to ensure that everybody stays together and gets to the destinations together as a group. Of course this took a bit of practice. Our instructor was not happy when we did a left turn and left him out in the middle of the intersection due to traffic being backed up.
Overall, it was a really good experience. I have never really biked in heavy traffic in large multi-laned roads, let alone using the left turn only lanes, so I definitely gained a lot of confidence from the course. I feel like I can bike anywhere now. As for having worried in the beginning…I have no idea what I was worrying about. As I’ve written in Mist, At Least You Can See It:
“Stepping outside one’s comfort zone isn’t as bad as the anticipation and thought of actually doing it.”
I passed the course with flying colours and the instructor even asked me to enter the mentoring program. I haven’t quite decided if I’ll enter the program yet, although I think it may be a good opportunity.
I’m looking forward to doing bike patrol duties in the upcoming months.