learning to ride a bike...at 35

Updated: Jan 23

Hi there. Nice to see you again.


In the spirit of sharing more deep dark personals...


Guys. I rode a bike this weekend.


FOR THE FIRST TIME.


Yes, you read that right. I have somehow managed to live nearly 36 years without ever learning how to ride a bicycle.


We had a long-ass, rocky driveway at our first farmhouse in the Finger Lakes. It was at that farmhouse that I was chased by a cow, and it was at that farmhouse that I enjoyed the best turkey of my life. It was also the freshest turkey, as Papa hit it with the car on the way home, and our friend, Farmer John, cleaned it for us right then and there. Anyway, I loved riding my training-wheeled, ribboned bicycle up and down that long-ass rocky driveway. I have a photo of me around the age of six, wearing pink sunglasses and sitting on that bike with a mid-laugh grin on my face. Pure glee, those training wheels.


However, riding that bicycle without those support wheels lasted approximately one hot second. I barely remember it, other than getting frustrated beyond belief at my complete and utter ineptitude (I’ve always been my own worst critic, as we’ve already established.) Granted, it was only one hot second of ineptitude, but that’s about as much as I could handle.


And then I never got back on.


NEVER.


You’re probably thinking, “Wait. What?”


I still don’t understand it myself. We lived on a major “highway” in the country, so I wasn’t going to ride my bike right near my house. But, you know, that’s no excuse, because EVERY OTHER CHILD rode a bike. It’s a nearly universal ability that humans share. We’ve been getting around on bicycles for almost exactly 200 years.


But I tried it once, struggled for a hot second, and never tried again.


How I’ve managed to get away with it my entire life eludes me. I guess I’ve never been on a trip or in a place with group biking activities. There were always other options, like walking or rollerblading (which I actually did a lot as a kid).


It’s true that, after working for a chiropractor who treated many bike-accident-related injuries, I don’t really have any desire to ride the bike in a major city – and I’ve basically lived in major cities since I graduated from college. Still, it has always felt borderline deceptive to lead with that, rather than, “I don’t know how to ride a bike...” I just don't want to get into it, so I skim over it, mumble something about not being a fan of bikes, and quickly change the subject.


D never really picked up on the art of subtlety in this regard. Every time someone suggests riding bikes, he jumps in with, “She doesn’t know how!” It’s not to make fun of me or anything, but I guess he never noticed my embarrassed, mumbled response to the bewildered faces around me. I finally said, “Actually, honey, we don’t need to advertise my lack of bicycle skills.” He said, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize you were sensitive about it!”


Yes, I do think it’s pretty hilarious, as well as mind-boggling in a kind of intriguing way, but it also feels a little pathetic, lazy, or some other equally sloth-like descriptive. A former personal trainer who’s not great at organized sports seems acceptable somehow, but a former personal trainer who never learned how to ride a bike feels like the ultimate irony.


If I had a nickel for every time I’ve nodded my head in pretend affirmation of the phrase, “It’s like riding a bike!”...Let’s just say I wouldn’t be stressing over splurging on a $6 cup of hot lemon-ginger-honey tea every time I go to Le Pain to write these blog posts. To my credit, I’ve never used the phrase myself, because I try to not be a hypocrite.


Fear, pride, uncertainty, frustration, and self-criticism, and probably some more stuff thrown in there, too, have prevented me from taking the plunge. Truth be told, it’s also a crowd-pleaser. “Jamie, share a fun fact about yourself!” There’s never another person who can claim my fun fact as their own. It basically makes me a unicorn.


But, guys...NO MORE!


This past weekend, we pulled a bike out of the basement, and, after about three minutes of violently swerving back and forth in the driveway, I found some semblance of flow and successfully rode that bike around the block. The first time, I made it halfway. The second time, I made it all the way. I’m pretty sure I strained a neck muscle concentrating so intensely, but I did it. At the age of 35, I learned how to ride a bike. And do you know the first thought that crossed my mind?


“Well, shit. What took me so freaking long?”

In a recent interview with Lulu Garcia-Navarro on NPR, Brad Pitt said, “I’ve lived more of my life than I have to live.”


Now, if that’s not fodder for getting out there and doing those things you’ve stopped yourself from doing, then I don’t know what is. Who knows? It might be a lot easier than you think. Plus, you usually have to make mistakes and “fail” in order to learn. That’s just life. But, you know, you don’t have to wait 30 years to try again, or to really try in the first place.


I never really minded not being able to ride a bike until a few years ago, but it probably would have saved me a lot of travel time. And it would have been fun. Now it will be fun. Who knows when I’ll get back on, but the point is that I can. It’s never too late to learn, my friends.


By the way, D took a video of me, and the wide-eyed, laughing grin on my face is exactly the same expression I had in the photo with my training wheels. Pure glee.


How far we come.


Thanks for stopping by, and keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.

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