Bike riding is not a natural thing! Trust me on this!
Does riding a bike come naturally to you? Let me be clear … riding a bike does not come naturally to me at all! I simply don’t have the balance to stay upright.
My childhood is to blame! Growing up in the remote highlands of PNG we had no need for bicycles. There were too many hills and steep inclines so we walked everywhere and consequently as a child, I never learnt to ride a bike.
I am always envious of those who scoot off for an early morning ride, or enjoy the freedom of the open spaces, sailing down the hill with their hair blowing in the breeze. They make riding a bike look so easy!
I do try. I have made periodic attempts to learn to ride a bike. When living in Alice Springs some years ago I asked my son (then 15) to teach me. He agreed. Boys love hooning around on their bikes so it was an opportunity for him to be out and about and I daresay, he didn’t expect the challenges that came with the task!
My First bike ride
Craig and I set off on our first ride. In hindsight I guess his old red mountain bike was a tad too big for me but I didn’t know at the time that bike sizes were an important ratio to height.
Off we went. I wobbled shakily down the driveway, sticking my leg out to try to stop me toppling as we turned towards the start of the bike track.
Momentum took over and I was off! Peddling along at a nice easy pace with my hair streaming out behind me I felt at one with the bike and was feeling very proud of myself! I momentarily thought … hmm so this is all it’s about! Why did I not pursue this earlier? What fun!
Craig sailed past me zig-zagging in and out of the rows of trees – showing his bikeriding skills! I felt like a 10 year old, happily yahooing to Craig who had surged on ahead of me!
The Tunks Crossing bridge was a slight right-hand turn taking us onto the bridge pathway. I looked over the edge of the bridge and as I did, put my hand on the rail. Opps, I gripped too hard and stopped. The bike kept going. I did not!
Nearing home on that very first ride I tried to ride the bike up onto the footpath but failed when my front wheel hit an uneven section and spun sideways dumping me ungraciously face first into the gravel. I clearly recall Craig riding off at a great pace … leaving me to pick myself up, dust myself off and hearing his words as he rode away quickly, “you’re so embarrassing Mum”.
Discouraged, I limped home pushing the wretched red bike with my grazed knees and elbows – clear evidence of my unsuccessful challenge.
Defeated but not destroyed
I didn’t ride again for
the longest time.
Several years later I met a man who was passionate about cycling and somewhat accomplished. He’d owned bike shops, was a cycling race official and generally rode his bike for the love of riding. I admired that and envied his commitment to cycling.
I decided to have another attempt and accepted his generous offer of support and tuteledge.
He advised me that I needed my very own own bike specially measured to size if I was going to be serious about conquering this challenge. He measured me, did all sorts of calculations, talked about stand-over height, reach & geometry and other very impressive stuff that I really didn’t have a clue about.
I asked him not to buy a prissy girls bike, I wanted a real bike that meant business. What did I know?
My Second bike ride
I waited eagerly until my Trek arrived, a sleek black thing that I had to throw my leg over to climb aboard. It looked like it meant business! My Trek was beautiful and I was very happy! I couldn’t wait to take her out for a spin!
Alice Springs is a popular place to ride bikes, great bike paths, plenty of flat roads, not so much traffic and lots of wide open spaces. For me it represented a great opportunity to take another leap forward and finally learn to ride a bike. I was very excited!
We set out on the bike path heading towards town. I had a tight hold of the handlebars I wobbled a little as we started off gradually getting my balance as my speed increased and momentum took over. I began to loosen my grip on the handlebars as I relaxed and began to enjoy my ride.
We were about three kilometers into the ride when suddenly I hit some gravel on the footpath and before I knew it, I face-planted over the handlebars into the gravel. Blood and skin off me everywhere!
Never one to lose a battle, persistent me got back on the bike, turned it around and rode it home!
I had made the committment to mastering this bike riding stuff and I am known to be very determined when I set my mind to it. So the next afternoon, we set out again.
Making a mental note as we passed my previous accident zone, I smiled at my achievement.
The next thing I heard was a distinct pphft. I came to a halt instantly. I had sliced open my tyre on broken glass. Damn! Trev rode home to get the car to rescue me and my beautiful bike … and so it goes!
I consider my bike riding as a work in progress and I’m still trying to get the hang of the balance thing!
I have a new bike now, a nice white step-through number, certainly more prissy than my beautiful black bike, but it allows me to sit taller and seems to have a positive impact on my balance.
I am still persistent, and acknowledge that riding a bike is difficult for me and yes, I still have the occasional ‘stack’ but I’m pleased that it’s less often now. My bike and I seem to have a better understanding of each other.