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Advice for a total beginner with anxiety about cycling?

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Advice for a total beginner with anxiety about cycling?

Old 11-02-16, 12:53 PM
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popovnik
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Advice for a total beginner with anxiety about cycling?

I'm sorry if making a thread for such a specific concern is annoying; I looked through a good deal of the forums to check I was posting in the right place but if there's somewhere else this should be moved to, let me know.

Just for context, for some reason my parents never taught me how to ride a bike as a kid. Recently I got really interested in cycling and decided to try it. However, literally the third time I tried practicing, I fell particularly bad and dislocated my finger. I know this wouldn't really be too much of a big deal for a normal person, but I suffer from panic disorder and seeing my finger getting bent at unnatural angles like that caused a panic attack. Needless to say, getting myself to a doctor in the midst of that was kind of a nightmare.

I don't know if anyone else here suffers from anxiety or panic attacks, but long story short it's not an experience I'd like to repeat. Unfortunately every time I think about getting on a bike again, I get anxious about falling and potentially getting an even worse injury. Getting myself to try again has proved difficult because of this.

Usually when I get injured somehow, I can deal with any resulting anxiety by taking extra safety precautions for a while until I get over it. But I don't know how to do that in this situation, since the only real way to get better at not getting hurt when you fall on a bike is to keep riding it until you're better at it, as far as I know.

I'm on meds and in therapy (since way before the accident, tbc) but I have a lot of other priorities in my life that sort of take precedent over this particular anxiety, so working through it with typical treatment would be slow going.

Basically what I'm wondering is, has anyone else experienced anxiety over cycling, and how did you overcome it? Does being anxious or nervous affect your ability on a bicycle? Is there any specific way I could protect my fingers when I fall? I thought about full finger gloves but I don't know if they could possibly prevent dislocation or not. I also thought about cycling on grass, so the landing would be softer even if I did put my hands out to catch myself, but would I be able to learn basic balance on uneven ground? Any kind of help would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 11-02-16, 01:00 PM
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First of all, having anxiety about seeing your finger bent at a 90° angle, not to mention the accompanying pain, would be a completely natural reaction. My guess is your reaction is a manifestation of what you internalized from over-protective parents who wouldn't allow you to ride a bike. Unfortunately, this also greatly increases the probability of an accident like that. So really what you want to do is understand why the accident happened and work logically to prevent such circumstances from re-occurreing.

In my case, having a perfectly-fitted bike and hydraulic disc brakes helped give me needed confidence after a significant orthopedic injury (which at least wasn't bike-related). Learning technical bike handling skills, and knowing your limitations (I don't like to ride faster than 30 mph down steep windy roads, for example) is also important.

Also, invoke Rule 5.
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Old 11-02-16, 01:48 PM
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I suffered from Anxiety and depression for years. The only way my anxiety affected cycling was I became afraid to ride on streets. I did a bit of mountain biking, but that's not my cuppa tea. Proper medication and therapy were my solutions, and it's so slow as to be anxiety producing all on it own. It may help for you to really do a deep dive into your fear, and see there is any specific thing you can avoid to find cycling acceptable. If falling is the fear, ride slowly with the seat low so you can put your foot down to stabilize yourself. Look for ways to circumvent any triggers. It's difficult I know. About all you can do is to do what you can.
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Old 11-02-16, 02:20 PM
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Putting your arms out to break a fall is a bad idea, leads to dislocated fingers and broken arms. Consider taking a tumbling class, so you learn to fall without injuring yourself. Bringing your arms in, tucking your chin to your chest and doing a shoulder roll or a parachute landing fall has saved me from many injuries while mountain biking and advanced technical trails, where if you do not fall, you are not riding hard enough.

Riding on grass while learning is fine. It forces you to work harder on balance and you are riding slower.

It is also OK to go down a shallow slope without pedalling and your feet out to catch yourself once you brake to a stop.

If you have a good friend, they can push the bicycle slowly and help balance you just like a parent would.
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Old 11-02-16, 03:49 PM
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So, you fell without actually riding? That will be tough. Riding on grass or packed dirt might help a bit, but it is also harder to ride on.

Padding? Knee, elbows, hands, shoulders?

An option might be to try a tandem. You probably wouldn't be steering, but it might help with some of the feelings of being on a bike. Plus, at least give you experience with pedalling.

Another thing to consider. Some people talk about kids practising with balance bikes. Lower the seat a bit, and remove the pedals, and perhaps crank and chain, and get used to just rolling on the bike by foot power.

The semi-recumbent feet forward bike designs are also designed to allow you to get your feet to the ground while sitting on the seat, and may be worth considering.

Some of the recumbent trikes look very sweet, and are a lot harder to fall out of. It might be a last option, and a bit expensive, but they do have a strong following.
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Old 11-02-16, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Another thing to consider. Some people talk about kids practising with balance bikes. Lower the seat a bit, and remove the pedals, and perhaps crank and chain, and get used to just rolling on the bike by foot power.
This is what I was talking about in my post but I did forget to include removing the peddles and lowering the seat so your feet can lay flat on the ground while you sit in the saddle. There is no need to remove the cranks and chain.

Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
The semi-recumbent feet forward bike designs are also designed to allow you to get your feet to the ground while sitting on the seat, and may be worth considering.
I would not recommend this, even some experienced cyclist have a hard time initially on a recumbent.


Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Some of the recumbent trikes look very sweet, and are a lot harder to fall out of. It might be a last option, and a bit expensive, but they do have a strong following.
Last resort if OP cannot get the hang of a two wheeler. Once OP is in love with cycling the trike could be N+1.
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Old 11-02-16, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by popovnik View Post
..... I suffer from panic disorder.....

I don't know if anyone else here suffers from anxiety or panic attacks, but long story short it's not an experience I'd like to repeat. Unfortunately every time I think about getting on a bike again, I get anxious about falling and potentially getting an even worse injury. Getting myself to try again has proved difficult because of this........

......what I'm wondering is, has anyone else experienced anxiety over cycling, and how did you overcome it? Does being anxious or nervous affect your ability on a bicycle? Is there any specific way I could protect my fingers when I fall?..........
Wow. I am totally impressed by your open honesty about your condition. And I am equality impressed with your courage to both try and continue your efforts to ride. In many, many ways.... you are already completely successful.

The fear of crashing while cycling is common. (< a great read)

We all crash. I don't know of anyone that enjoys it. I myself accept it. I know I will crash either by my own error... or by the carelessness of a motorist. Cycling injuries are part of the sport. I either accept the idea of an injury.... or I live everyday as if recovering from an injury... that never happened.

Hang in there.
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Old 11-02-16, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by popovnik View Post
I'm sorry if making a thread for such a specific concern is annoying; I looked through a good deal of the forums to check I was posting in the right place but if there's somewhere else this should be moved to, let me know.

Just for context, for some reason my parents never taught me how to ride a bike as a kid. Recently I got really interested in cycling and decided to try it. However, literally the third time I tried practicing, I fell particularly bad and dislocated my finger. I know this wouldn't really be too much of a big deal for a normal person, but I suffer from panic disorder and seeing my finger getting bent at unnatural angles like that caused a panic attack. Needless to say, getting myself to a doctor in the midst of that was kind of a nightmare.

I don't know if anyone else here suffers from anxiety or panic attacks, but long story short it's not an experience I'd like to repeat. Unfortunately every time I think about getting on a bike again, I get anxious about falling and potentially getting an even worse injury. Getting myself to try again has proved difficult because of this.

Usually when I get injured somehow, I can deal with any resulting anxiety by taking extra safety precautions for a while until I get over it. But I don't know how to do that in this situation, since the only real way to get better at not getting hurt when you fall on a bike is to keep riding it until you're better at it, as far as I know.

I'm on meds and in therapy (since way before the accident, tbc) but I have a lot of other priorities in my life that sort of take precedent over this particular anxiety, so working through it with typical treatment would be slow going.

Basically what I'm wondering is, has anyone else experienced anxiety over cycling, and how did you overcome it? Does being anxious or nervous affect your ability on a bicycle? Is there any specific way I could protect my fingers when I fall? I thought about full finger gloves but I don't know if they could possibly prevent dislocation or not. I also thought about cycling on grass, so the landing would be softer even if I did put my hands out to catch myself, but would I be able to learn basic balance on uneven ground? Any kind of help would be greatly appreciated.
Your anxiety is both commonplace, and moot.

What I mean is this. Following an accident, it is commonplace to have some sort of anxiety. So the level to which you feel your anxiety is connected to your panic disorder is moot.

When you said you bent your finger back. It sent chills down my spine. Every time that I have been hit in traffic. Anxiety dogged me for a while. Until I got back to my riding level again.
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Old 11-02-16, 10:01 PM
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I can't help with the anxiety, but i can get you on a bike in a few hours at the most. Where you go from there is strictly up to you, though you're probably better off off the streets and on trails free of traffic.

Anyway here's my 100% guaranteed or double your money back way to riding in 3 (or so) easy steps. It's based on the natural way children learn to ride as early as 2 years of age.

Find a bike with step over height that you can straddle it easily with feet flat on the ground. It's also important that you can sit on the saddle with both feet on the ground. Hand brakes also help, but aren't critical.

Now remove the pedals, and take it to a wide open area that's flat or gently sloping. Sit on the "balance bike" and propel it by walking, then when there's some momentum picking up your feet and steering and balancing with the assurance that you can simply put a foot down to keep from falling.

As yu gain confidence, and can coast for longer distances, see if you can coast down a slope with confidence. Once you feel confident in your ability to steer and balance, and not before, you're ready to install the pedals, raise the seat slightly and push off. I suggest that you start the pedal phase with a shallow hill to help, so you don't have to push hard. From here, it's only time until you're riding as well as the best of us, or at least as well as you want to.

Again, if this doesn't work quickly and smoothly, I have a 100%, no questions asked, refund policy.
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Old 11-03-16, 07:34 AM
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I agree with CB HI. Don't stick your arm out when you fall, try to catch yourself with your shoulder. The weight of your body coming down on your shoulder is generally a manageable load (unless you have a frail skeletal system), the weight of your body coming down on fingers or your wrist can very easily damage them.

As to learning, find a private area with little traffic, if you haven't. Anxiety isn't helped when people are around or watching you.
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Old 11-03-16, 08:16 AM
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I know trikes have been mentioned as a last resort. However, a recumbent trike could be a first step. You'd be much more stable, from the get go. It would allow you to experience cycling in a less stressful position. Once you do fall in love with cycling, I think learning to ride a standard two-wheeler will feel more doable.

Just something to consider.
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Old 11-03-16, 09:08 AM
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I do not envy your emotional state but you can't fight how the brain operates.

The brain has a way of storing all your experiences in certain places and when fear is attached to those experiences they get stored with that fear and it's really hard to overcome that instant emotional fear response when trying something new that you just know will result in some kind of pain. The only way to really overcome this internal phenomenon is to have more experiences without the pain until it becomes a comfortable thing to do. The only way to have those comfortable experiences is get back on a bike and ride, taking prudent precautions so you don't get injured.

If you simply can't get back on the bike because of the fear then you have to try another way to see that the fear is helping you. Not easy but doable and it requires you be brutally honest with yourself and try and find the real source of the fear. Guaranteed it's not a fear of riding a bicycle. It's deeper and only you can discover what it is. Once you do you at least have a chance to change it. Until you do, you'll be thrashing around the real issue.

Best of luck and let us know how your riding turns out. Which reminds me - you can do some visualizations as well. Try and see yourself riding and having a good time, internally when you get a quiet moment - it can work wonders.
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Old 11-03-16, 09:26 AM
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"Get a bicycle; you will not regret it, if you live..." - Mark Twain

Cycling might help relieve a lot of medical or psychological conditions for a lot of people. I know it helps me. But it is not for everybody.

Falling is a given. Every single cyclist I have spoke to states: "I fell one time..."

You did not state what type of riding you were interested in, but until you get more experience I would stick to a simple beach cruiser on a local MUP. Nice and slow.
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Old 11-03-16, 09:50 AM
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It's not some kind of moral failure or negative mark on your character if you simply find that riding a bicycle is not for you, or that now is not the time. Others have posted some great suggestions and resources, but in the end, you need to make a decision that is right for you.

A bit different, but I know a couple people who liked the idea of motorcycling, took an introductory course which included riding time -- one bought a motorcycle and rode occasionally... then gave it up. Another passed the course with flying colors and then immediately decided that it was not for them. In the first case, they do have anxiety issues, which I'm sure played into their decision to give it up; the other one does not have a lick of anxiety about them.

In life, we choose what activities we like to pursue. You can simply chose not to ride a bicycle. This may be heresy on a special interest bike forum, but a person does what they think best for them.

I will note, though, that initial anxiety for any new activity is not unexpected. It lessens over time. Cycling is no different.
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Old 11-03-16, 10:04 AM
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Cycling, skating, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, and anything else that requires balance and skill on land demand TWO things:

1. Acceptance Of Speed and
2. A Willingness to Take A Fall and Get Hurt.

The falling acceptance part I believe is instilled at an early age. The ability to accept speed is a learned thing at any age.

So this being said...if you are not willing to get injured again...don't do balance sports. This seems like a harsh answer I know, but it is the truth. You WILL fall again.

Hypnosis might help so I have heard. I have several friends who swear by it for dental visit fear. And there is no shame in taking up sports that do not require falling.
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Old 11-03-16, 10:58 AM
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Ride with someone else whom you trust. Then start by riding in an empty parking lot. Work on developing skills such as: stopping and getting your foot down; turning either right or left; starting from a stop; making hand signals; and making turns around objects. Gradually increase your speed. Once you feel you have developed these operating skills, try biking on a very quiet neighborhood street. As your confidence grows, expand the range and terrain. Go to a bike path (one that is not very busy) and ride that. Pretty soon you'll be riding everyday.
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Old 11-03-16, 01:22 PM
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Consider an adult tricycle.
https://www.walmart.com/tp/adult-tricycles
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Old 11-03-16, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Consider an adult tricycle.
https://www.walmart.com/tp/adult-tricycles
Best idea yet. Then move up to high performance if desired.
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Old 11-03-16, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by popovnik View Post
...... I don't know if anyone else here suffers from anxiety or panic attacks, but long story short it's not an experience I'd like to repeat. ........ Getting myself to try again has proved difficult because of this..........

.........I'm on meds and in therapy (since way before the accident, tbc) but I have a lot of other priorities in my life that sort of take precedent over this particular anxiety, so working through it with typical treatment would be slow going.
I think... you're posting that you have a medical condition... and asking non-medical people for a fast on-line cure?

You do have courage.
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Old 11-03-16, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
I agree with CB HI. Don't stick your arm out when you fall, try to catch yourself with your shoulder. The weight of your body coming down on your shoulder is generally a manageable load (unless you have a frail skeletal system), the weight of your body coming down on fingers or your wrist can very easily damage them.

As to learning, find a private area with little traffic, if you haven't. Anxiety isn't helped when people are around or watching you.

If you stick your arm out when you fall, you don't have to worry about breaking it. That's what your collarbone is for, or if you're unlucky, your wrist. This is the voice of experience ; mine and lots of others on the forum. As CB and jefnvk note, let your shoulder take the brunt of it, especially if you have a helmet to protect your head.

The best way to beat anxiety is experience. Start slow, in a safe environment. As you get more time in the saddle, your confidence will grow.
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Old 11-03-16, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by SloButWide View Post
especially if you have a helmet to protect your head.
Which, in the OPs case, they most certainly should!
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Old 11-06-16, 06:35 AM
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advice for a beginner with anxiety about cycling?
Don't read this forum
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Old 11-06-16, 08:21 AM
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If you are trying to learn how to ride as a way to conquer general anxiety, I would suggest you try other methods rather than choosing cycling, where you will be IN TRAFFIC a good amount of time. This is a poor way to conquer anxiety, and you also risk not only your own well-being in doing so, but others as well. Work on your general anxiety FIRST, before trying cycling and endangering others.
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Old 11-06-16, 08:27 AM
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I wouldn't say about actual diagnosed panic attacks, except that doctors may prescribe some medications.

For general anxiety about riding, the cure is practice. Start wherever you feel the least anxious, spend time there until you have confidence, and expand your range.
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Old 11-06-16, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by bulldog1935 View Post
advice for a beginner with anxiety about cycling?
Don't read this forum
Good advice and not just for beginners; way too many Henny Pennys crying Danger! Danger! Danger!, the Big Meanies are Everywhere!
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