Learning to Cycle When You’re Not Five – Lesson 6

I’ve started looking at cyclists on the street with different eyes. Each one that passes sets off questions in my head. How did they learn to cycle? Where did they get their bike? How long did it take before they were confident enough to cycle on the street? Do they ever have sore muscles? How does it feel for them to be on a bike? A (clearly unhinged) man cycles past me, wildly shouting obscenities at the top of his lungs. But I guess he feels comfortable, as his cycling is disturbingly at variance with his chaotic behaviour. Three little kids decked out in helmets pass in orderly duckling fashion, following their mother, their bikes just skimming her knees. However, among teenagers, scooters seem be in these days, though their models are much slimmer than the ones we practiced on.

I still remember the first exercises on those scooters. Two weeks ago I couldn’t imagine riding a bike and now I pedal along the familiar football field like it’s just something I do. Starting is a little tricky and I have to stop a few times, but I discover it’s because I don’t speed up properly before putting my left foot on the pedal. So I give myself some more time, practice getting the other foot on the pedal in time, et voila. Cycling in a straight line is easier today, as is making curves closer to the corners of the field. But I have to watch the distance between me and the other participants. Timely steering is a work in progress, though now using the handlebar feels more in sync with my movements. I create a small obstacle course for myself, cycling around a few orange cones. I barely avoid riding in to one, but I do knock it over. After yesterday’s fall I take care cycling around the small goalposts, and I successfully brake in time in front of some bushes.

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“Keep pedaling, and then let it roll, pedal, roll, always changing,” my instructor calls out, so off I go. The rolling part feels short at first, but lengthens with repeated attempts. It’s amazing how once I’ve gotten a feel for a bigger bike, I don’t want to get off it, even if I can go on the smaller one too. There are only a few big ones to go around, and they are in popular demand today, so some wait and switch when the others take a break.

I barely look at my feet on the pedals, I just feel them, and while things in my direct line of vision, like people, the other participants and occasional obstacles or a stray bike left on the field (put it away!) are what attract my attention, I do look up. I see how green the trees already are, what the houses in the distance look like, all while being propelled forward with movement underneath me.

My instructor suggests another exercise, namely cycling off, raising myself off from the saddle and balancing. “Of course you can do it!” she says encouragingly. But my lower body refuses to part with gravity and I safely finish the last few rounds, seated.

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