Bicycle Success! (The saga of how I finally overcame my fear of bike riding)

You may or may not remember this post, wherein I mention my adventures in learning to ride a bicycle. (Yes, you heard me correctly. Learning. At thirty.) Well, I did not update you for a very good reason. Jenny (my bicycle) and I had a disagreement. A rather embarassing one.

The first summer I had her (summer 2011), I spent a lot of time *not* riding her because it was too hot. And then I got tired of this, and felt like it would ALWAYS be too hot. You remember that summer, don't you? Yeah. Too hot. For months. So I decide to slowly acclimate myself to the heat. Spending longer and longer periods outdoors. And then I thought, today is the day. Today is the day I will ride my bicycle in the heat. I will be careful. I will bring water. If I start to feel tired, or thirsty, or bad, I will stop. I will stay close to home so I can go inside quickly. Well.

Jenny and I headed out. It was a hundred and some odd degrees, like every other day that summer. I paid close attention to how I was feeling. After 15-20 minutes, my legs started to feel a little fatigued so I turned around. And then I started to feel a little more icky. And I considered my options, which were to continue the short distance to the house, or stop under a tree, which was a refreshing 100 some odd minus half a degree thanks to the shade. Home was close. I went home. By the time I got home I already had heat exhaustion. No matter that I cooled off super quickly, made sure I rehydrated fairly quickly. And so I wound up in the emergency room a few hours later.

This was not Jenny's fault, really, but I held it against her. Stupid bicycle sent me to the ER! Irrational thinking. But I had to be angry at something other than just myself I suppose.

So Jenny gathered dust, and the longer she did, all my intimidation at riding bicycles came back. And then some. I glared at her in the garage the rest of the summer, through the fall, through the winter and spring, and through half the next summer. Knowing that I would have to get over it. And then the perfect thing happened.

Photo from http://www.okcbicyclist.com/


Wow, if I could ride a bike, I could go to the botanical gardens at lunch. But I don't know those bikes. They look scary. OMG, no hand brakes! I'll die! But the thought put them on my radar.

And then Spokies had a series of free tours. That meant I could try out their bikes for free, with a big group of people (which for some reason made me feel safer - they would navigate for me and all the cars would see us for sure), and get to do one of my favorite things: listen to history stories. Plus. Free helmet. I'd been putting off buying a helmet. I think the helmet was the kicker, because I know if I ride bikes I will need one and I know they aren't cheap. The helmet decided me.

So I made a date with a buddy. We signed up. I couldn't back out because... my buddy was my ride my home that night! And right after I got on the bike for the first tour I would have quit if I didn't need that ride home. I was suddenly very terrified. Of being on a strange bicycle, on a busy street, of being on a bicycle at all, IN TRAFFIC even. By the time we got to the first stop on the tour, my arms hurt from gripping the handlebars so hard. But I was ok. And the start-and-stop design of the tour helped give me a break and calm me down. The stories distracted me from being scared. By the time we had to ride again I was usually ready.  I wasn't a great bike rider, but I made it through to the end of the tour. And then I made it through to the end of the NEXT tour, too. There were several moments on these tours when I was absolutely terrified for one reason or another. Because we were riding down a busy street. Because someone else was riding really close to me, or trying to talk to me. A drunk even touched my bicycle while I was trying to ride! Because the sun was in my eyes, or it was getting dark, or I had to ride over a railroad track. I didn't even know there were so many things to be scared of while I was on a bike! But I did them.

And after my second tour I went home and looked at Jenny, and she suddenly seemed so easy! If I can ride a one-speed bike down Reno, with no hand brakes, with people distracting me, in the dark, then I can ride sweet 7-speed Jenny on a designated bicycle route. Piece of cake!

Monday I rode her to the dentist and back. My first full commute that replaced a drive I would have made in my car. And the first time I touched Jenny in over a year. Also, the first time I felt pretty confident while riding her. Once again, I'm not up to driving her to work and back... realistically, I am physically not there right now. But I'm not scared of her anymore.

Hooray for Spokies!

Bicycle success!


Movability Austin said...

Thanks for the great blog! Movability Austin has featured this entry in our most recent issue of Let's Go News. You can see it here: http://movabilityaustin.createsend.com/t/ViewEmailArchive/j/2503DA1C145123BE/C67FD2F38AC4859C/

Alien Mind Girl said...

Great - glad you enjoyed it and thanks for letting me know about the feature!

Road Cycling Experts said...

Congratulations for overcoming your bike riding fears! An achievement being told through this well-written article. Thank you so much for sharing.