September 5, 2012 by secretcyclist
Right, what I am about to reveal to you, you are forbidden from sharing with any of my friends, relatives, close acquaintances, pets, phone company, doctor, neighbours or household appliances. Really, swear it. Swear it! Okay.
I endured a long morning of apprehension, telling myself it was going to be seriously grim trying to stay on a bike, a grown woman, in front of a bunch of shrieking and not very nice teenagers, who would take every opportunity to point and laugh behind their hands at my terrible display.
Because of this, I decided to have a go in my living room, a not very large place, and unsurprisingly discovered I couldn’t stay upright over the roughly 3 metres available to ride across. I felt duly discouraged by my lack of balance (yes, I know, a tiny stretch of carpet is not exactly a perfect replication of the road).
I toyed with the idea of staying home and getting a friend to come with me on another day, but knew immediately that I’d end up snapping at every helpful comment they offered until I had to buy them at least 3 pints to make up for the dreadful experience, and given the state of my bank balance, decided against it.
So I set off, bike in tow. Even this was a strange experience. The feeling of pushing my very own bike along with me, when I’ve never owned one in my life. Having a piece of physical machinery that is really mine, complete with wheels and gears, bought to fit my size, was strangely exhilarating.
Got my bike down to the park, and noticed there were already a fair few people about. For a moment, I really considered just turning around and going back home. But I told myself that I’d been planning to do this since the Olympics, and I was going to follow through, like it or not.
So, I put on my helmet, stuck a foot on the pedal, and paused.
“Now come on, you know you have done this before. You can do it again. Instead of panicking like you always do, shooting off before you’re ready, getting freaked out and falling over, just think. Remember that time you did it when you were a kid. Remember the pressure you put on the pedals, how you held onto the handlebars. Just do it again, all you have to do is do it again.”
So, I pushed off, lifted my other foot onto the pedal, pressed down and…
I went. I stayed upright, and I went. Just like that.
Yeah. Just don’t. Tell. Anyone. I really couldn’t endure the smug looks on their faces.
To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed. I was looking forward to an amusing story of my hysterically disastrous attempts and shambolic public humiliation, but I’m not going to make up things that didn’t happen. I stayed on the bike. I rode around for a bit. It was really rather nice.
That’s not to say I was perfect. I’m still very wobbly, and was nowhere near going in a straight line. Every time I tried to turn I came very close to skidding out and almost hit a couple of picnickers.
Though the worst moment came about 30 seconds after I pushed off and realised, so convinced was I that I would fail on the first attempt, that I hadn’t really given much thought to how I was going to stop. In fact, I had no idea how to do it. So, I spent about 10 minutes riding around trying to get up the courage to pull on the brakes.
In the end, I did it, and managed a peculiar hopping motion as I fell sideways, narrowly avoiding falling on my arse but not looking much more dignified for it.
Anyway, I’m very please with this initial progress. The next couple of weeks are going to be spent in much the same fashion, riding around in the park, building my confidence and control, not to mention stamina. I honestly didn’t consider how tiring pedalling would be for someone who sits around as much as I do. I know objectively that I’m not in great shape, but as a pretty slim person I don’t think it really registered, deep down. I must have assumed I was just inherently healthy because I had a low BMI. Well, apparently it doesn’t work like that. I’ve got my work cut out.
Anyway, once I’ve got past that point, I’m going to do a bit of road cycling with friends, and I’m going to join some group cycles to get more confident cycling in a group. If, after that, this is still something I feel I want to pursue, I’ll look into getting a new bike and joining a club.
Follow me on Twitter @endingthecycle (please…I’ve got literally 1 follower. Talking into the void is no fun at all).