Just Like Falling Off a Bicycle

You know that old saying, “Just like riding a bicycle?” Well, I never learned to ride a bicycle. So I would change this to “Just like falling off a bicycle.” Sure, when I was a kid I did have a bicycle. It was purple, with a banana seat and streamers hanging out of the handles. Another cool feature it had was training wheels. I’m not sure if he was just too busy or if he didn’t want his little girl falling off a bike, but my Dad never took the training wheels off. So I never really learned.

When I was in my 20s I started to want to ride a bike. It’s eco-friendly. It’s cheaper than a car. It looks really fun. It’s good exercise. Over the years I tried to ride bikes a few times. There were always reasons why I didn’t do it. For part of that time I was embarrassed that I was 20-something and couldn’t ride a bike, so I didn’t want people to see me riding it. Part of the time, I had no storage space to keep a bike. Most of the time I was just unmotivated. When I was motivated to try, I always had an excuse for why I was not riding well (And I’ll give you a hint: it was always the bicycle’s fault, in some way). I had free bicycles. I gave them away. I had a folding bicycle. I sold it. They all spent long dust-collecting days in my garage, on my porch, or under the stairs.

Early this summer I bought an old one-speed tricycle at a garage sale. No one has to learn to ride a tricycle! It’s pure instinct, it is! It looked cool, it had a big handy basket. I thought it would be a sweet ride to work. I got it all fixed up. And after a few pedals around the neighborhood I quickly realized that riding a big, heavy, single speed tricycle up hills is very hard!! And don’t even THINK about asking me how to get it over curbs and other obstacles. I honestly could not imagine making it all the way to work on that thing. So I sold it, too.

Then I bit the bullet, went to Melonbike, and bought a fancy bicycle. I decided that if I truly wanted to learn to ride, I needed a really nice bicycle. One that inspired me to go riding when I look at it. One that was pretty, that I was proud to own. One that was brand new, with nothing wrong with it, with several speeds. One that was easy to ride and would leave me no room for excuses when I screw up. One that was fitted and adjusted to me personally by a professional at the bicycle shop. And that was when Jenny came into my life.

Beautiful Jenny; she makes me think of breezy spring days, picnics, and 1950s movies where girls wear feminine yellow dresses (I don’t know why). And because she is an expensive, brand new bicycle, because I consulted with a professional before I bought her, she is blameless. If I can’t steer straight, my fault. If I have trouble going up hill, my fault. Because Jenny is perfect.

Except for the place where Jenny’s paint was scraped off, and the pretty white vinyl on the seat corner is tatty.

Those are Jenny’s battle scars from the time I tried to learn how to signal. I thought that holding my left hand out to the side meant, “I am turning left now.” Really what it meant was, “I am falling to the left now.”  Poor Jenny.

I’m still no expert, but Jenny has forgiven me for the tumble and we get along pretty well now. I know that I can ride her the five miles to work if I am brave enough (I did it one pretty Sunday morning before the heat climbed too high, and celebrated by buying a blueberry muffin). Unfortunately, because I get off during the heat of the day, I now have to wait until the high temperature is reasonable before I start my bicycle commute. I work in a cold office building and it’s already August so my opportunities for acclimating to 100 degree heat are slim, but fortunately autumn weather should be just around the bend. Then Jenny will get some serious use.

Maybe by then, the Project 180 bicycle lanes will be complete. Maybe Jenny and I will stop at Coffy’s Café on the way to or from work, if we’re feeling froggy. I imagine losing a few pounds of effortless weight, enjoying the breeze and the weather, seeing my city at a slower pace, saving money on gasoline, and reducing personal emissions… all in one fell swoop. At least, that’s the way I imagine it…

So, this is my confession. I’m 29 years old, and it took me this long to learn how to ride a bike.

I’m still not able to signal without falling over, but I’ll try not to cut you off in traffic if you try not to hit me with your car. Deal?


Wonkadelica said...

I found a great deal on one of those Trikkes at a garage sale a few months ago. http://www.trikke.com/st01/home.html

It certainly is trikky to learn. It is much easier on the lower back than a bicycle and strengthens the hips and is more aerobic. I think I need the larger size. I am learning to ride in isolated areas until I can do it without looking like a fool with a freak toy.

Alien Mind Girl said...

Wow, I've never seen one of those. It looks fun!