How I Finally Learned To Ride a Bike as an Adult
Most people think it’s cute when they see a little kid riding their bike, but I’ve always felt envious in these situations. “It’s so easy even a child can do it,” I think to myself. I have to admit, there is also a sense of shame. Everyone in my circle of friends can ride a bike. Except for me. Let’s face it, there’s something rather unsporty if you’re a fitness instructor who admits they can’t ride a bike. I live in Europe, so cycling is also a way of life.
Find out more: Why You Should Try Out New Sports, Especially As An Adult.
I don’t have an elaborate story of repressed fear that led to me not being able to ride a bike. And none of my family was ever crushed to death in a bicycle factory, in case you’re wondering. The reason I didn’t learn to ride a bike as a kid is frustratingly simple – I just didn’t have one. When I was really small, I had a tricycle, but when I was ready for a real bike, it wasn’t an option. At the time, we lived in an apartment that didn’t have a cellar, so there wasn’t any room for something as big as a bike.
That was more than 20 years ago. The older you get, the harder these things are to overcome, plus I never had a pressing reason or deadline that meant I had to learn to ride a bike. All that changed after I got married. My husband’s heartfelt wish was for us to ride our bikes together through New York’s Central Park on our honeymoon. What a wonderful idea, I thought. And just like that, I had the reason I’d been waiting for.
My First Attempts
My husband volunteered to teach me to ride a bike, although he won’t say whether he was aware of just what he was getting into. It was a long process and I was lacking in motivation. I thought a lot about it in advance and knew I would be uncomfortable. When you practice your cycling outside, strangers watch you and little kids zoom past on their bikes. If I were to finally learn to ride a bike, I would have to leave my comfort zone and find a way to tune out my surroundings.
Our first lesson took place in the summer of 2019, before we even got engaged. Learning to ride a bike seemed like a good idea and it was also a good stress test for our relationship; if we were OK after this cycling adventure, surely we could survive anything. We went to the Volkspark Rehberge park in Berlin on a warm and sunny day. Unfortunately, this also meant that there were lots of people in the park. That was the exact scenario that I’d feared, but I managed to ignore them quite well – it was just difficult when they were in the way, because I was scared I was going to run someone over. Luckily nothing like that happened!
For my first attempts, my husband gently held the bike so I wouldn’t fall off. I managed to find my balance relatively quickly and eventually I was able to turn left and right as well. I still couldn’t get moving or brake at all, but by and large my first few attempts were successful.
My Bike and Our On-Off Relationship
In hindsight, I think my lack of motivation was the biggest issue. As soon as the weather became a little cooler, I didn’t want to practice riding my bike; I avoided it completely when fall arrived and didn’t start practicing again until the following summer.
They say you never forget how to ride a bike and, to my great surprise, I found that my brain had memorized the movement sequences. I was able to regain my balance relatively quickly and ride laps round the park without any help. Cycling itself still felt very tiring, however; my whole body was tense and I had to concentrate very hard.
The following summer, I learned how to brake – even if it wasn’t always very graceful! I was also able to avoid passers-by. This was particularly important to me, because if I had ever run someone over, I definitely wouldn’t have ever got on a bike again. I still needed a little help getting moving. But despite all these successes, I still had to force myself to ride my bike. Fall came round and once more I ghosted my bike.
The Final Hurdle: New York, Central Park
Once we had booked our tickets to America, I decided to stop avoiding my bike. I started practicing diligently again and faced up to my biggest challenge – getting moving. I managed it a few times after numerous attempts, but I was still shaky.
When we finally got to Central Park, the weather couldn’t have been worse. It was cold and rainy and there were lots of people around. Far more than there had been in Volkspark Rehberge. It was certainly no easy ride. I had to brake frequently and then set off again (to this day, this is not my strong suit) to skirt around the large crowds. But despite all the obstacles, I managed to make the dream come true. By the end, I was soaked through but bursting with pride.
It took me three years before I finally learned to ride a bike, and my lack of motivation was the main reason it took me so long. What helped the most was focusing on myself and having a concrete date, like my trip to America, to work toward. If you’re thinking about learning something new – go on, I dare you! It won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.
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