Technically, I went to see Randy the bike shop guy to drop off Ben’s bike for a repair. But what I really wanted was ideas on how to get over my aversion to riding on highways. Nine days into this April biking challenge, and I’m still having trouble getting out of the driveway. I’ve had fun peddling Colleen’s flip bike around in circles, but I have yet to hit the road.
I knew Randy Braun, the boyishly exuberant 50-something owner of Chain Reaction in Monroe, has done plenty of riding on U.S. 224 over the years, so I thought maybe he’d have some advice.
“Sure,” he said. “Just close your eyes and go!”
To Randy, riding on 224 is no big deal. It’s just a two-lane road, after all. Though I’m just looking to go a mile or two until I can turn off on a back road, he’s rode several miles on it at a stretch, like the time he rode back from the Huntington Reservoir to his place near Decatur.
“I just did it for the fun of it,” he says. ”It had just been repaved.”
See, this is what I need. I’m capable of taking ridiculous risks in some areas of my life, but riding in the vicinity of semis isn’t one of them. But it’s all a matter of perspective, Randy says.
“I actually think it’s a lot scarier to ride in urban areas, because it’s so much more unpredictable,” he said. “You never know when someone or something is going to pop out in front of you.”
One of the most tense rides he’s ever been on was going straight through Columbus, Ohio, on a ride to Virginia. But even peddling around Decatur can be scary, he said. Like the cat that darted in front of him in 2006.
“I was going really fast, and I broke my collar bone and my shoulder blade,” he said. “I actually spent some time in the hospital.”
The biggest thing, he said, is to pick a time when the traffic isn’t at its peak. He likes to ride early in the morning before too many vehicles are out. Late morning is good, too. Just wear a helmet, he says, and ride with the traffic.
“Oh, and one more thing,” he calls out as Colleen and I head to the door. “This is really important, this is huge: Never, ever ride when the sun is shining into the eyes of the drivers coming up behind you. That is one thing I never, ever do.”