It’s OK to back off

by Starla J. King on May 12, 2011

I had clip pedals on my road bike for over a year.   Metal thingies on my cycling shoes snapped into metal brackets on the pedals.  

Awesome connection to the bike.  Ridiculously smooth transfer of power from leg to pedal to wheels — poetry in motion, yes indeed!

But there was a problem. 

Every time I rode my bike for that year, I was some level of afraid.  You see, the only way to “get out” of the clips is a quick twist of the foot, and I can tell you from experience (3 experiences, actually) that when the unexpected occurs on the bike trail, instinct is of ZERO help in getting out of the clips.  

The first time I fell, I wasn’t even moving.  But I recovered like a champion and rode right over that damn fear.  The second time I fell, I was slowing down to approach a bike-eating downhill curve and I still can’t take that curve without a touch of panic.  And the third time I fell, well shoot, I can’t even remember if I DID fall … maybe I just thought about it so many times that it feels like I actually had a 3rd fall.

1 fall, 3 falls, 29 falls — doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that with each ride, instead of losing my fear, I seemed to gain fear.  Hop on my bike, feel the wind in my hair, and picture a mangled pile of arms/legs/bike/road-shredded jersey.   Deep breath, focus on the freedom of riding, the synergy of being one with machine through the clip connection.  And picture  a dastardly wipe-out each stop sign, each person passing from the other direction, each bunny, dog, or dry leaf skittering across the path.

My meditative, there-is-a-God-beautiful, write-stuff-in-my-head rides became hyper-vigilant try-not-to-die rides, so last month I took back my ride.  I reverted to non-clip pedals.

We don’t always have to push through the fear.   

Try, yes, please do try… but give yourself the option to step back and honestly evaluate if whatever you’re trying to do is truly worth the fear.

Sometimes it is worth it.  Sometimes stepping into that fear is the thing that will set your life on a beautiful, brave, brilliant new track.  

And sometimes you will spend so much energy on fighting the fear that your joy can’t show up.

We all have that “edge” — that place that scares the sh*t out of us in any given situation.  Delicious growth happens at that edge.  And ridiculously amazing stuff can happen when we step just beyond that edge.

The tricky part is that we’re not always ready to step beyond our edge, and in some situations we may never be ready.  That. Is. OK.  

Sometimes we just need to remove our clips.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca P. Cohen May 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Great lesson, and I LOVE the happy face shirt!


Starla J. King May 12, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Rebecca, thought of you and our earlier conversation this week. And few things in life are as awesome as a happy face shirt!


Nona May 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I love this!! It’s one word, really: discernment. Where is my fear stopping me from being brilliant and amazing and where is it wise and loving to honor your experience? Sometimes I think the fear of taking the pedals off is way more courageous than continuing to push ourselves.



Starla J. King May 12, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Yes, yes, Nona — discernment! Love your clarity-inducing questions — powerful. And you are so right about the fear of taking off the pedals — guess why it took me over a year to do it?!

Love having you wrap your wisdom around my posts. xo!


patti May 12, 2011 at 8:29 pm

read this, loved it (of course) and was thinking “i don’t have one of those fears, do i?”….then i quickly remembered the fear i feel every time i slip behind the wheel of my 30+ft, 20,000lb RV and try to convince myself that i can handle whatever the next trip throws in front of me! protect the family, protect the vehicle, and for goodness sakes, protect the wine! i think i’m ready to conquer my fear once again!


Starla J. King May 13, 2011 at 10:24 am

P, I just have one thing to say to you: PROTECT THE WINE! In your case, I advocate sticking with the fear! 🙂


Chris Hunt May 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Wisdom indeed. One has to know when to quit. Sometimes it is okay to quit. I think we don’t hear that enough. Nice post.


Starla J. King May 16, 2011 at 9:12 am

Welcome, Chris… and thank you! It is a fine line between challenging ourselves and pushing too hard — I think we typically err on the side of pushing too hard because that’s more “acceptable.” Here’s to following our internal wisdom!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: