We drove down to the John Heinz refuge to practice biking today, but it was sort of doomed from the start. I guess I was feeling kind of cranky, and Greg taking forever to get ready and then giving me a hard time about what I was wearing didn’t help things. We got there and I just had a really hard time. The terrain was rougher than we’d remembered with lots of gravel and hills that, while walking are imperceptible, but riding felt like mountains. I kept stopping and starting and kind of falling and generally felt really frustrated and inept and exhausted. Halfway through I had kind of a breakdown and started crying and yelling at myself (while no one was around), and that kind of sent me off the deep end. I just feel like I’ll never really be able to do it. I’ll always feel wobbly and have to skid to a stop when I get nervous and then have a slow painful start. When I caught up with Greg and he saw that I was crying and frustrated, he kept saying we should stop and go back, etc, which kind of just made me angrier. I don’t want to just give up, I give up everything. Yes, it’s frustrating and painful and I feel like everyone in the world has mastered this stupid simple thing except me, but I can’t give up. I just needed to be pissed at myself and cry and fall and work through it, but he just didn’t seem to get that. After that I did a bit better on the ride back, going for five or so minutes at a time without stopping. When I got back to the car I was trying to explain the feeling to him, that feeling of being so frustrated because it’s this thing that almost every eight year old can do but I can’t, and he kind of didn’t get it. He sort of just brushed me off saying, “Yeah, it’s hard, but learning new things is hard” and said it was hard when he learned back when he was eight. I guess I was feeling sorry for myself, but I kind of feel like it’s different than just “learning something new.” It involves being more nervous and awkward than you probably are as a kid, and putting yourself in kind of a humiliating situation, and potentially injuring yourself, and above all it’s something that I should’ve done twenty five years ago. So yes, I’m sure learning how to swing on the trapeze and white water kayak and ride a unicycle are also difficult, but those things are kind of like a bonus. I feel like I’m a step below all of those people because I’m trying to do something that most people have been doing all their lives, and that’s almost a necessity in life at some point.
So yeah, kind of frustrating day.
I was just reading a few entries from other people on this subject, and I wanted to share my feelings about it. I made it a point a while ago to stop hiding the fact that I don’t know how to ride a bike. I used to feel embarrassed that I had never learned, but of course as you get older you feel less awkward about things like that. So I’ve just decided to own it. I figure if someone sees me – a 32 year old woman – trying to learn, they’d have to be a pretty terrible person to laugh or make fun of me. I find that people admire someone who’s courageous enough to do something like this at my age. Not to mention, once you tell people you don’t know how to ride, you’d be really surprised at how many people say the same thing – that they either never learned, or haven’t done it in years because they’re scared.
Today when I was riding around my in-laws cul de sac, a man and his little girl came outside and I said hello, and said, “I’m just learning to ride!” The man didn’t even flinch – he said, “Awww…you’ll get it, it just takes a little while. I got on a bike for the first time in years and I was wobbly at first, but I got it after a bit. You’ll be fine”
I think at this age it would be much easier for me to just say, “The hell with it, the ship has sailed on this one and I’m never going to learn.” So as long as you’re willing to laugh at yourself and be open about your nervousness, I think people will admire you for trying.
Well I practiced again today for the first time this year. I got a helmet yesterday and I borrowed my sister-in-law’s bike to practice on. I did ok, no spills or anything. But I have to say, I can’t really envision a time when riding a bike will feel natural to me. I watch people op on and off bikes, ride standing on the pedals, weave in and out of people and cars, and I just think, that will NEVER be me. We’ll see.
The other morning I was lying in bed and my mind got to wandering and I thought about riding a bicycle, and how I really need to make this the year I do it once and for all. I daydreamed about being on the bike, riding down a country lane with the wind in my hair (although Greg will probably make me wear a stupid helmet). I’ve come close enough to actually riding in earnest that I could really feel the sensation of freedom. What a lovely way to spend a summer day. I need to do this.
Although I don’t think I’ve gotten on a bike in probably two years, I did ok tonight. It was probably the fourth time I’ve ever practiced, and I was surprised at how quickly I was able to pick up where I left off. I still have a long way to go as far as feeling comfortable, but I’m able to start much more easily, and go for a considerable amount of time without getting nervous and skidding to a stop. I’m also getting a little better at steering.
The issue is that I feel more comfortable when my feet have better contact with the ground, but that means the seat needs to be down so low that my knees have to come up super high, which makes for a wobbly ride, and the tight jeans I was wearing didn’t help my leg mobility at all. At some point I need to make the switch to a bike that fits me better (I’ve been riding Greg’s BMX). But I have a feeling that I might take a couple of spills if I can’t touch the ground that well.
Still, making great progress toward a goal that I was beginning to think I’d never be able to reach!
Is that enough time to learn how to ride a bike expertly? I’m going to Amsterdam in September, and I have this vision of riding through the countryside on a bike, but as the trip gets closer and closer, I’m getting worried that, even if I were to get back to practicing tomorrow, it still won’t be enough time to feel comfortable.
But this is the new can-do me! I need to at least give it an honest try. Even if it doesn’t work out for the trip, I’ll still be that much closer to actually riding.
I am almost thirty years old and I have never learned to ride a bike. Don’t ask me how I missed out on that. I’ve gone a couple of times but not enough to actually feel comfortable.