I can’t think of another ‘old saying’ that is more wrong than this one. If you learn something, no matter how much time has passed, you never forget…because it’s just like riding a bike. Yeah.
When I was a teenager, I rode my bike everywhere. I’m talking year-round, if too much snow and/or ice didn’t keep me from it. There’s no way to even guess how many miles my trusty two-wheeled transportation and I covered, but it was hundreds.
Then life happened. Kids, jobs…and a multitude of other excuses, so fast forward about twenty years.
The kids were at a 3-day Special Olympic event. For those that don’t know it, my son is autistic, and my daughter went along to help out. Missing them, and wanting them to come home to a nice surprise, I had a wonderful idea. I’ll buy us all…bikes. We’d been wanting them anyway, and it would be good way to get my video game addict son out of the house.
Were the kids surprised? Yup. But I was even more so. First, these were ten speed bikes, and the gears and braking system meant I actually had to read the manual. Not too far into it, I decided I would never understand the gears, so I would just play around with them until pedaling was comfortable.
The brakes, on the other hand, were a different story. Two sentences stood out above the others. Always apply the back brake first. Because, if you didn’t, if you applied the front brake first…you could flip your bike.
Okay, so I was going to make very sure I remembered which side the back brake was on.
Time to ride. My daughter and I went alone that first trip. I’m sure it’s an experience she’ll never forget.
First, I found that my bike was too big for me. Even after lowering the seat as far as it would go, it was still too high (no, I wasn’t smart enough to try it out in the store). How humiliating to have to stand on the bottom step of the porch to mount the darned thing…
But that, I discovered, was the least of my worries. I wobbled almost as much as I had when my dad taught me to ride at five years old. After a couple of minutes though, I kind of got the hang of it again, and off we went. Sort of. My daughter took to it like a duck to water. I, on the other hand… Well, let’s just say that I’m sure anyone driving past us thought I was drunk…
The second problem came about a block and a half later, when my daughter zipped around the corner. Which side of the handlebars was the back brake on? I thought I was doomed at that point, but I made it. Whew!
The third problem arose as we approached the next intersection…and she stopped her bike!
“What are you DOING?” I shouted, nearly running into her back tire as I tried to remember which side the stupid brake was on (my memory sucks when I panic).
Turns out she kind of had to stop…for the car that speeding down the road. Of course that meant I had to stop, too. It also meant I had to drag the bike to the curb so I could get back on the too high seat.
It was then I started to wonder why they make the seat so hard. And WHY were there bumps on each side of it? Big bumps. Shouldn’t a seat be pretty flat?
Let’s just cut a long story short. I didn’t fall off the bike. Not even once. I did, however, look like an idiot. And I was never so glad to get home as I was that day. As I dismounted the torture device, making use of the porch step of course, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get on it again.
For one thing, I had forgotten how to ride a bicycle. And for another, a certain part of me felt like someone had strapped me on a metal folding chair, to which they’d taped a couple of walnuts…and then driven down ten miles of washboard dirt road really fast.
I’m not even going to mention the next few trips with my son – who seemed to see an invisible target on me and my bike…
I was going to add a funny video about other graceful cyclists, but turns out they weren’t funny at all, so after some searching, I remembered one of my favorite songs. Bikes play a big part in it…
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