Most people learn to ride their bikes as children. First they learn to roll over, then comes crawling, walking, running, and then bike riding. Those lucky little so-and-sos even get special training wheels.
I had a bike briefly as a kid. It even had those snazzy spare wheels on the sides. I didn’t have anywhere to ride it, living out in the middle of nowhere, so we got rid of it before I was ever even really comfortable getting around. Doing circles in the grass could only keep a young me entertained for so long. The years passed and I became an adult who never learned to ride a bicycle, living as a closeted bike virgin.
Confession time: my wife and I can be couch potatoes when given the opportunity. Going to the gym is a pricy hassle, and jogging is probably the least fun thing that I can imagine. My wife suggested that we get some bikes to ride as a fun way to be more active. She rode bikes like crazy when she was younger and would undoubtedly be able to ride like a champ still today. My fear of being outted was growing closer to a reality right before my eyes. As my wife, she knew that I never had a bike, but that was still classified information. I agreed, though it made me break into a cold sweat and have an evacuation of the bowels. Grant it, that was hours later. I’m still convinced that the events were related though.
We didn’t plan on riding up any mountains (THANK THE MAKER), so we picked up some lower-end rides from our local superstore. We joked about buying me elbow pads, knee pads, a mouth piece, jock strap, and so on, but just got the essentials and loaded the instrument of my demise into the back of a borrowed pick-up truck. We got back to the house, my wife gave me a few pointers, and the time had come. I had to ride the damn thing.
I would love for this line to read: I took off down the road and never looked back, unsure of what had made me so nervous in the first place. I have to be honest however; it went about the way I had always feared it would. I circled very slowly in our driveway for a while, wobbling like a newborn emu, jerking the handles back and forth in an effort to keep my balance. I ran into our trash can, making quite a racket, which was probably the epitome of my front yard humiliation. My wife shook, laughing inaudibly despite her best efforts. I decided to take my talents to the backyard, where I experienced similar success. I peddled heavily though our mole-tunnel ridden lawn, still not going quickly enough to establish sufficient balance. We decided that if I could actually go straight and pick up some speed that I could gain experience more quickly. I took to the road, definitely feeling better, but then a truck started approaching. By approaching, I should clarify that he turned onto our street a good 200 yards away. I put both feet down and shuffled quickly into the ditch while still straddling my bike. My humiliation continued, but I was not beaten yet.
We both decided to take off and ride around our neighborhood. I was doing ok riding along on straight stretches, though I did accidentally bump our handle bars together a few times. I was becoming more comfortable and was convinced that I was getting the hang of things. I was taking a stab on switching gears, but it was grinding a little. My wife informed me that sometimes you have to “step on it!” to get the chain to shift. She promptly rocketed forward, leaving me in the dust. That’s when I too, decided to “step on it”…
I picked up speed, but barely had time to notice that I was listing quickly to the left. My “instincts” didn’t prompt me to touch the brakes even a little bit. My bike was quickly on the curb and I hit the eject button. I jumped up and backwards, now running through someone’s yard as my bike fell and tore into the grass and dirt, leaving large pieces of Earth stuck in the peddles. I kept my head down and quickly hopped back on and attempted to catch up to my wife, who was again shaking uncontrollably trying to mask laughter. Apparently there was a very large man in that yard, silently watching as I, a grown man, fell off my bike and tore up his yard.
After several more sessions of riding, I have become much more comfortable, though I am still far from looking like I have everything under control. My wife admitted one morning that she had had a nightmare in which I entered a 5k bike race. She recalls that after about an hour into the race (give me some credit!), she and her family finally spotted me zipping around a corner, smashing into the porch they were watching from. I got back up and headed for the finish line, where there was still tape for some reason. She said that I tried to be hilarious and limbo underneath, falling off again. She said that she was mortified, but her Mother was proud. I’ll take it.
My wife has had nightmares and I have watched my own come to life. Learning to ride a bike at 25 has been one of the more interesting experiences that I’ve had. At least I now know that I’m capable of being a normal, functioning human. I can do anything! What’s next? Knitting? Starting a garden? Only time will tell.