Like learning to ride a bike…

The phrase “it’s like learning to ride a bike” is one I don’t think I have ever uttered. It’s a common phrase used to explain how easy it is to master a skill. Everyone can ride a bike, can’t they?

No, they can’t.

I’m 31 years old and have never learnt to ride a bike. For various reasons I didn’t have one when I was growing up, and by the time I was an awkward, overweight teenager it was just too embarrassing to even consider trying to learn. I did briefly have a go once, but failed quickly and found trying to teach myself was actually really hard. I’m not usually one to quit something because it’s hard, but I just figured I would muddle through life without wheels, and I’ve managed pretty well until now.

I haven’t written this blog for a while, but if you follow my other blogs you’ll know I’ve been settling in to my new life in Bristol really well and loving every minute of it. I can now walk to work (rather than using public transport), and it only takes about 30 minutes, so I spend a lot of time marching across town, getting lots of exercise. Every day I’m passed by countless speedy cyclists, whizzing along without a care in the world, and I admit I do sometimes feel pangs of jealousy. Not only is it a fast way to get from A to B, cycling looks like fun.

But I’ve lived in places with lots of cyclists before. In Japan people can cycle on the pavement and pretty much everyone rides a bike, it seems. I was a bit jealous then too, but I managed fine on my feet. By the time I had become an adult I had well and truly convinced myself that I wasn’t meant to be a cyclist. I was too big, probably had no sense of balance, and didn’t really need to cycle anyway.

Then, a few weeks ago something snapped inside me and I realised I was missing out. I was reading about an island in Japan that I’d like to visit someday, and how you can have so much fun if you just hire a bike there and cycle around, and I just thought “this is ridiculous”.

A quick Google led me straight to Life Cycle, a “small, energetic, innovative and committed Bristol-based charity helping local people transform their lives through cycling”. It said they offered free cycling lessons for adults living, working or studying in the Bristol City Council area, and I immediately signed up.

Signing up alone took a lot of nerve – this was a hell of a mountain I was about to conquer – but I knew I still had to actually go through with the lesson. In order to make sure I didn’t chicken out, I told everyone I was going to the lesson. It was embarrassing to not be able to cycle as an adult, but it would be worse to not even try to learn and have to tell people I hadn’t done it.

So, tonight I went along to a park to meet a woman with a bicycle. I was terribly nervous – scared that I would fall off and hurt myself, worried that I would look a fool, embarrassed about being an adult who couldn’t ride a bike. Fortunately my teacher was really kind, and reassured me that hundreds of adults can’t do things that other people take for granted, like cycling and swimming, and that she taught adults to ride bikes all the time. She really put me at ease and, although I was quite distracted by how silly I thought I must look, I managed to get on with it and have a go.

And, do you know what? I can do it!

I actually managed to ride a bike today, for the first time in my life. Of course, the teacher supported me at first, but before even half the lesson was up I was able to do it on my own (albeit with a bit of a wobble, and not necessarily in a straight line).ย I have two more free lessons, and I intend to make good use of them! Of course, at some point I shall need to buy a bike too, but I’m not going to try and run before I can cycle. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I feel so proud of myself, not just because I could ride a bike, but because I was brave enough to have a go. I’m not writing this blog post to blow my own trumpet though, I’m writing it because I’d like to inspire others to get over their fears and jump the hurdles in their lives. Yes, it’s embarrassing if you can’t do something, for whatever reason, but there’s bound to be someone out there who can help you learn that skill or get over that fear. I’m so pleased that I didn’t just bookmark the page as “something to do one day” but that I actually went straight ahead and booked a lesson.

I’ll end with one of my favourite inspirational quotes:

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it… Boldness has genius, magic and power in it, begin it now!”

(Quote attributed to Goethe, but possibly from another source)

Girl cycling through the park

(Image source)

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8 Comments on “Like learning to ride a bike…”

  1. Michelle Helliwell says:

    Well done you, that’s brilliant and very inspirational. All the very best Michelle

  2. David from Oregon says:

    Congratulations!! I have always thought it would be fun to ride a penny-farthing but I have only seen pictures of penny-farthings. Just curious but do you know how to drive a car? I know that there are many people – especially people who live in large cities with extensive public transportation systems – who never need to learn how to drive a car.

    • Haikugirl says:

      Thanks for your comment, David. I did learn to drive when I was 18, but stopped quite soon after passing my test. I didn’t enjoy it at all and felt very nervous when I was driving. I think I would have ended up causing an accident. That’s why I’m not sure about going on roads with a bike, but I think I will be able to handle cycle paths eventually! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. thesoupdragonsays says:

    well done! you will be whizzing along before long! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. A Modern Girl says:

    This is really quite inspiring. I never learning to ride for similar reasons, and I’ve been wanting to try recently. It’d be great if I could find a place that offers similar lessons! (And if I could screw up the courage. Ahem.)

    • Haikugirl says:

      Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad to know there are others out there like me. I wanted to try for such a long time but was so scared to have a go. It’s really embarrassing being a 30-something who can’t ride a bike, but now I can sort of do it (at least without falling off like I feared) I feel so good! I’ve just got a ‘new’ secondhand bike, and now I need to get up the guts to practice. I hope you can find somewhere that has lessons like I did. Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚


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