I’ll say from the onset that doing the Melburn Roobiax ride wasn’t my idea. I don’t like riding over cobbles at the best of times but I got signed up for it so I went along with it. And hey, the time I’ve been as an observer, it has looked like a lot of fun.
I was a little apprehensive as the day drew closer but I decided that I should just go with it and have some fun. Really, how bad could it be?
Uh… bad. Really, really bad.
I managed to get about 100 metres into the first section before I panicked. I was going too slow and the cobbles were really, really slippery after three days of heavy rain. There were people all around me and I could hear so many unfamiliar voices saying “wow, it’s so slippery”, “it’s a bit muddy!” etc. I totally freaked out. I managed to get my foot down but it promptly slipped out from underneath me. Then I cracked myself in the left shin with my pedal as I struggled to maintain my balance. Got my other foot out and somehow managed to whack my right shin with my pedal so hard that it broke skin. I have no clue how I did this. Of course I was in a bit of a state by now, verging on what felt like a full-blown panic attack. I stood there for about 10 minutes with people careering past me, adding to my fear.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t go back and the idea of riding out of the lane filled me with a terror that had me frozen to the spot. So I did the only thing I could. I got off my bike and walked to the end. On insanely slippery cobbles. In cletes. How I didn’t fall over I have no idea.
The second section was worse. Again, I was way too slow and I simply didn’t trust myself or my bike on the cobbles. I panicked and stopped as soon as I could. It was awful. I haven’t felt that way since the first ride back from my fall last year.
And that’s the thing isn’t it? What did I fall over on last year? A bluestone gutter. I really thought I’d gotten over the whole bike accident thing. I’ve been happily riding on the road for months. Hell, I’ve ridden up a mountain! (Okay, so on occasion I get a bit skittish in large crowds and I don’t like when I feel that other cyclists are getting too close to me but I think that’s normal!) What happened Sunday was totally unexpected and I think that’s what made it so scary. I didn’t even think of that there would be a subconscious connection between my accident and the cobbles on the Roobaix ride. But wow, my brain made it pretty damn quickly.
I feel kinda dumb. I mean, there were kids doing it. Not to mention people on old bangers of bikes that must’ve been absolute agony to ride over the cobbles. But me, in my expensive Rapha kit and road bike? Nope, I freaked out on the first section. Still, I should remember that I did hurt myself well beyond the normal “jump-up-and-laugh-it-off” injury. I hit the ground so hard that I cracked my helmet.
After two sections, I gave up. If I persisted with the cobbles, I knew I’d be in for a terrible day on the bike. It was obvious I wasn’t going to be able to get past my fear and if I kept trying, I’d end up hurting myself and probably the people around me. It was just easier to skip the cobble sections and simply ride around them and meet my other half, who was doing them, at the end. I did manage to complete one section though so I’m rather proud of that as it was considered one of the more difficult bits (had three stars).
But there’s no getting away from it – the cobbles broke me.