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Bike Riding 101

Ten years ago I learned to drive (I renewed my license this year). It took me years and many learner's permits--the written was easy, the fear, not so much. When I got my license, in those far off days before social media made notifying everyone too easy--I sent out a mass email. I also joked that I would learn to ride a bike by 35.

Well, 10 years later I have learned to ride a bike! Missing my deadline by a few years, but I won't hold that against myself. Like learning to drive, it only happened when I paid someone to teach me, despite kind efforts by dear friends. And like driving (and granted, I haven't done that much of it yet) I find I enjoy it very much. I love driving (traffic notwithstanding) and cannot fathom now why I resisted for so long. I still have some of the same fears--the fear more of injuring others, rather than the fear of injuring myself, but I do my best not to ever put myself of others in danger.

With biking, I was more afraid of personal injury--after all, I'm unlikely to kill anyone on a bike, but it has been known that people have accidentally killed themselves. I was also afraid that I would not actually like it, and why waste the effort when I wouldn't continue, or would find it hard on my knees, etc. And after those failed attempts with friends last year, I was seriously contemplating buying an adult tricycle, but my husband pointed out that I wouldn't want to ride it. He bikes and (don't laugh) Hyde bikes, and friends bike and it just seemed stupid that I couldn't, but at the same time I thought that I must be the only adult in the world who wasn't shoved down a driveway on a bike by their parents. And then I saw in the catalogue from the Cambridge Center for Adult Ed., Adult Bike Riding $100. Well, it seemed a sign, and I have $100 now, so I signed up before I could talk myself out of it, and once I had paid I was committed.

The first weekend was rained out, but last weekend I was there with 6 other grown-ups. I wasn't the oldest, and I wasn't the youngest, and I wasn't the best, but neither was I the worst. The instructors were old hippy's (it was outside Davis Square, after all) and very kind and encouraging. I have to say, I recommend their method wholeheartedly. We went to a playground with a gentle slope from one edge to the other and we started at the top with no pedals, seats lowered to where our feet could rest flat on the ground. And at first we just coasted, knowing we could put our feet down, following the "nose" of the bike and learning that turning into the fall really will stop you from falling. After, and at our own pace, we had mastered that, then you tried it with one foot on a pedal. At the very end of last week's session, I managed to get both feet on the pedals and actually turn the wheels for a few feet. I thought about posting then, but I wanted to wait until I really had steered and pedalled and ridden a bike. I knew then that it would happen, something that I wasn't sure of at the beginning of that class, but I wanted to feel what it was like before I said--yes, I can now ride a bike.

So today, we started again, at our own pace and after a few false starts (and a lot of dramatic bruises on my calves--don't ask), I was peddling in laps around the playground. A few laps more and I was able to change gears and keep in (almost) a straight line. This last is important because next week we go to the bike path--with other people. Other people who know how to ride. I couldn't quite manage to take a hand off of the handlebars or stand up on the pedals yet, but I'm not that concerned about that. I also couldn't show my husband when we went to look at bikes in the sporting goods store, as I wasn't wearing good shoes, but I have no doubt now that all of that will come in time.

Most importantly, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed when I felt in control--coasting down hill with the wind in my face, motion but not motion. I could see the pleasure in just biking out and on your own. I also feel that physical things might not be beyond me, or too hard or something I just don't have a knack for.

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