Since I’ve spent a good part of the day sleeping, it’s time for a rerun. I originally published this blog on June 30, 2011 –
Whoever said “It’s like riding a bicycle – you never forget,” either never rode one, or never let twenty years pass between rides! Because let me tell you something – you can forget. You do forget!
Winding up on an episode of AFV was a definite fear at that point.
My adventures as a ‘no longer teenage girl’ began when the kids went on school sponsored trip for the weekend. Missing them, and wanting them to come home to a surprise, I came up with the wonderful idea of purchasing bikes. For all of us. Including me.
Now the last time I’d ridden a bike was way back when the brakes on the bike I owned were on the pedals. Push forward to go, push back to stop. The only ones I saw at the store that day had brakes on the handlebars. Hmm.
After hauling the bikes home, I thought I should probably at least skim through the manual which, as it turned out, said things I really didn’t want to know. Stuff about thirteen gears for one thing.
I’d had enough trouble learning to drive a stick shift car – with far fewer gears than these bikes. In fact, I broke out in a cold sweat remembering the argument I got into at a four-way stop during the learning process. When I stalled the car about fifty times going around a corner. With traffic backing up in all directions. And a teacher threatening to get out of the car and walk if I didn’t let him take over. Something I flatly refused to do – for fear that everyone watching, and waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting), would figure out that I didn’t know how to drive the car. Um…
The person teaching me wasn’t nearly as nice as Jon…
But back to the manual and gears on the bike. I decided to ignore that part. I’d figure it out by trial and error. Eventually I was sure to stumble onto a combination, between the two gears, that would enable me to ride comfortably.
The second and far more worrisome bit of instruction involved the brakes. Apparently if you forget and apply the front brakes first, the bike could flip over. That didn’t sound good. In fact, the thought of my non-teenage self being thrown headfirst over the handlebars and hitting any kind of ground (but especially paved ground!) was something less than appealing. But like I said before, I’m a fairly intelligent person. I’d figure it out. I’d have to. Because that scenario would certainly involve an ambulance and emergency room, and that would just be too humiliating.
So the kids arrive home and are thrilled. And, of course, they want to ride the bikes. Okay. We go over the manual and I drill the brake thing into their heads. Back brake first!
And away we go.
Hmm. Bikes are a little harder to mount than I remember. Of course that could be due to the fact that I’m 5′ 4″ and the bike was probably made for a woman a little bit bigger. Like maybe thirteen feet tall.
So… Unable lower the seat any lower than the top of the frame, I dragged the bike to the porch…and hoped no one driving by noticed what I was doing – using the bottom step to get up high enough so I could swing my leg over the seat.
Next on my growing list of concerns had been the way the bike continually wobbled after I did manage to get on. Was it because the tires were really narrow? My sense of balance wasn’t what it was when I was a kid? I realized then that I wouldn’t have to worry about being tossed over the handlebars because I was just going to slam sideways into the ground at any second.
I don’t really like the end of this video, but some of the accidents are exactly what I imagined happening to me.
And you know what else? Who in the world designed handlebars that cause you to sit bent over them like a pretzel anyway? That’s just not normal.
Finally, after holding everyone up while I tried to remember how to ride a bike, we were off. My daughter is took to her thirteen speed bike like a duck to water.
We approached the corner and, just as I’m congratulating myself on getting an entire block without mishap, she slows down to make the turn.
I panicked. Which side is the back brake on?! I envisioned my bruised and battered body in the back of the ambulance, wondering just exactly how uncomfortable the body cast would be. But I made it safely around and thought I was starting to get the hang of things again. Until she slowed down at the next street.
But no. She wasn’t just slowing down, she was coming to a complete stop, making my panic at the corner seem brief and insignificant. I found myself shouting, “What are you stopping for!!!”
Oh. A car. I had to use the curb to get back onto the seat. Which was beginning to feel pretty uncomfortable by that time. What did they make it out of anyway? Concrete?
Around a curve I happened to glance to my left just in time to see my son, who was having just as much trouble as his mother in controlling his bike, heading for me like I was a target. Visions of both of us in head-to-toe casts danced through my head as I squeezed both brakes – and my eyelids closed – as hard as I could, narrowly averting yet another disaster.
Okay, I’d enough! Not only had I gotten an amazing aerobic workout, my heart pounding like a trip hammer from fear alone, but the seat had become increasingly uncomfortable.
Why are there are ‘bumps’ on each side of it? It felt like I imagined gluing two walnuts to a metal folding chair, parking it in the back of a pickup truck – and sitting on it while the driver speeds down a washboard dirt road would.
As I dismounted, sore and stiff, and using the porch step to help me again, I realized that I wasn’t as impressed with biking as I had been when I was a teenager.