I approached the metal implements cautiously, a set of Allen keys clanking in my hand. Thousands of people managed these things; hundreds of thousands. How hard could it be?
In the garage, I peeled the little rubbery patches off the soles of my new cycling shoes and inspected the slots and grooves. I fitted a steely little doohickey in and tightened it into place with two screws.
I did the same with the second shoe, making sure the bits were pointing the same way. Then it was on to Stage Two.
It's all very well to spend a hundred bucks on shoes you have to assemble yourself, but they're no use without something to push against. The cleats were the male part – now I needed to replace my old pedals with special female ones that would accept the shoes and make them functional.
I grabbed a box-end crescent wrench, slotted it over the pedal axle. I pulled hard. Then I pushed. I thought about it, analyzed it, and pulled again. I changed position to get more leverage, applied my whole body weight, and still it didn't budge.
So I called my husband, hopefully. Silence. I called again. "Can you come down and help me?" I waited to see if the silence indicated that he hadn't heard me or that he had. He appeared. He'd heard.
The whole bike-enhancing exercise was in aid of a 2,000-kilometre trip I was planning – to ride the length of Vancouver Island, take the ferry to Bella Coola, traverse the Chilcotin to Williams Lake then Lillooet and return to the coast via the Pemberton Valley. I was excited about this adventure and had decided that such a long ride deserved proper footwear no matter what Thoreau said.
I found some at Reckless. I thought that was the name of the store; I didn't know it was a premonition.
My guy easily wrenched off my old pedals and tightened on the new ones. With my Allen keys I adjusted the tension of the clips. I practiced clicking my right foot in and my right foot out. In. Out.
I tweaked the clips once more and it was time to practice for real. My bike, whom I call Miss Jean Brodie, and I rolled out of the garage.
I clicked my right shoe in and pushed off. As I wheeled into the cul-de-sac, my left foot felt for the sweet spot and the shoe clicked into place. I felt the difference right away. The shoe, not my sole, took the pressure from my leg and transferred it to the crank. The pedal responded by moving faster, stronger. Jean and I circled the end of the lane once, then a second time, quickly building up speed.
I clicked out. No I didn't.
I tried again. I whizzed into another turn, cranking my ankle this time to pull out of the cleat. Jean held fast. I circled the end of the street, madly, vainly wrenching first one foot then the other. Around and around I zoomed and I wondered what I had done to come to such a pass, to wind up in one of the circles of hell right in front of my house.
"Honey!" I called. “Yoo hoo!”
But I didn't wait to see if he'd heard me. I simply bellowed his name over and over as I orbited and I only shut up when he caught Jean by the handlebars and wrestled her to a standstill.
He shook as I attempted once more to escape her clutches. By the time he leaned over to untie my shoelaces the whole neighbourhood could hear him laughing.