Just like riding a bike


There are some skills in life that you need to learn before you become a teenager or that is what the article said. This message has been etched in my mind. There was a couple of skills that I longed to learn. I was well past my teens when I read this article and thought that there was no point in even trying. Slowly I got rid of one myth and learnt to swim but could I master the bicycle? 

At ‘Centre parks’, a holiday village where you can hire bikes and ride around without worrying about the traffic, I gave it a go once but couldn’t stay on the bike. So that was that. Or so I thought. “Take a lesson” said Nishanth, “couple of hours, that’s all it will take”. “Yeah, right”, I thought. 

A quick browse through the internet and I find that there is a scheme where you can get free cycling lessons. It is not for people who live in our borough, but as I work in Redbridge I am entitled. A scheme set up to get people to drive less and cycle more, an environmentally friendly option. I enter my details and forget about it. 

The reply comes. The instructor can fit me in this afternoon. Am I mad? Am I up to it? I wonder. It is too late to back out now. I might as well try and give it a go before I lose my nerve and the slot. I get to the leisure centre and wait for him. He asks me if I have any experience. “None whatsoever I’m afraid”, I reply, “do you think I can do it? “. “Of course” he says. For someone who thinks her cup is half full than half empty most of the time, I don’t really have much faith in myself today. I hide my pessimism and tell him that I learnt to swim as an adult. 

He finds a suitable bike and helmet for me. I struggle to even push it to the tennis court where he is going to give me the two hour lesson. Slowly he teaches me to get on the bike, shuffle it along with both feet, then one and finally pedal it.  He doesn’t give me time in between each step to master the techniques and I struggle along. Then somehow it happened, I manage to stay on the bike for a few seconds, then for a lap around the court and finally a couple of laps. 

It starts to drizzle. He wondered if I was tired and had enough. I didn’t want to give up. There was still half an hour left on the lesson. The drizzle was getting heavier. It wasn’t fair to get the poor guy wet so that I can carry on improving my balance. We call it a day. He was pretty impressed and asked me how long it took me to learn to swim. I can’t remember now, but it certainly wasn’t this quick. “Just like riding a bike” he said, and now I get the expression. 

One fall, a slightly bruised knee, stinging ankles, achy arms and sore  bottom later I feel quite elated and chuffed with myself. Injuries I should have been getting as a youngster. I am doing it in reverse. So who said that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Now I need to practice and maintain my new skill. In Jamaica, when everyone else rode their bikes up the Blue mountain, I watched from the van. In Beijing when everyone went for a spin around the hutongs, I took an auto rickshaw. In Centre parks when everyone whizzed past on their bikes, I walked. Next time I will be joining them. 

The feedback from the instructor: 

“You nailed it – It would be a good idea to buy a bike and practice – Then maybe book a second lesson. Well done.’

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