Then our parents looked at us with a great seriousness in their eyes. I feared that they were going to tell me that one of our six dogs had died. But no, they said "Now girls. You can only ride these in the driveway."
Ummm. Okay. LAME.
We lived on a farm. With a gravel driveway. Big gravel. More like giant boulders. The kind that throw a bike tire right out from under you. And then there was the hill, which combined with the boulders was a sure fire ticket to a head injury. Lord knows that I don't need any more head injuries.
Here is a map of our bike route, the whole course took about 1 1/2 minutes:
Guess how much we rode our shiny new bikes? I'll give you a hint: The first time I rode mine I rammed my pubic bone into the bar so hard that I was crying, because our father, who so desperately wanted boys, bought us two BOYS bikes.
So what happened? Because my sister and I never rode our bicycles, we never really learned to ride bicycles.
Instead, we rode horses.
Flash forward to 2001 where I totally invited myself on a girl's getaway to Glenwood Springs. There were three of us, having a wonderful time in the hot springs, browsing the quaint shops, playing pool and eating out. The second day one of the girls said "Hey! There is a great bike trail! Let's rent some bikes!!!". I heard this "You are going to look like a total asshole when we find out that you haven't ridden a bike since you were 10. Especially when you mow down some nice lady pushing a stroller then topple over on a busy street corner."
Since I had butted in with my self-invite, I wanted to go with the flow. So I smiled nervously and said "That sounds like.... fun. You just can't go too fast because I haven't ridden a bike in like, 16 years.... and I'm not very good."
They laughed at me. I think they thought I was making light of the situation. They soon found out that they indeed let a socially inept, athletically challenged person (who gets loud when she drinks) come along with them on their weekend getaway.
The bike shop was in the middle of town. After we rented the bikes and wheeled them out onto the street, I realized that the empty wide road that I was hoping for to "practice" on was a fantasy. The reality was that I was going to have to mount the bike in the middle of town, which was busy with pedestrians and drivers and other cyclists (who could actually steer their bikes) and ride through all of the hustle and bustle without killing myself... or a passerby... or some poor dog on a leash.
My first attempt at go was wobbly and wonky and made my friends wonder how I even walk without a cane and a helmet. I couldn't get both feet on the pedals and balance and steer. Biking is HARD, people! I ended up doing that awkward walk with the bike between my legs. I decided that I could just do that the whole time and I would trick them all into thinking that I was actually riding the bike. I was slick with the nasty sweat of fear and failure, a combination that is all too familiar to me. I think that my girlfriends were beginning to feel the gravity of the situation, but they were kind and continued to offer words of encouragement. After a few minutes of that, with the help of a small hill, I gained a little balance and control. I was starting to feel less like everyone was staring at me and more like I could pull this off! Then we approached the bridge. The bridge was on the main drag through Glenwood Springs. It was long (stretching over I-70) and four lanes of traffic wide. On our right was the skinniest fucking sidewalk I had ever witnessed in my entire life. That tiny 6 inch wide sidewalk was where I was supposed to ride my rented bike. The bike that I could hardly keep upright, much less in a straight line. On the left of the sidewalk were rushing cars and trucks and on the right was a 20 foot drop off to the interstate. Super.
I was pretty sure that I was going to die.
But my girlfriends gleefully cheered "It's fine! You can do it!". I was not so certain. In that moment I hated myself for being such a brazen hussy and inviting myself along. But once a brazen hussy, always a brazen hussy; so I gathered up my courage, teetered, tried to push off, tripped on the pedals, went sideways, and caught myself before I fell headfirst into oncoming traffic. Then, my face beat red with humiliation, I took a breath and tried again. I had moderate success. ("Moderate" meaning I somehow navigated the bike over the bridge and didn't mow down any people or kill myself in the process.)
The trip ended up being wonderful. I even eventually enjoyed the bike ride so much that I went home and bought a really nice bike (a purple one from Walmart that was made for a tween.) I didn't care if it looked like I pushed a Girl Scout off her bike and stole it, that little Schwinn built up my confidence and ability.
I am now a serious biker, if you call biking in a skirt to the Dairy Queen "serious". But I do own a nice cruiser (currently with a flat tire) and have only almost fallen over on it once. I even learned the cyclist lingo. Read: My bike has a basket. Sometimes I even wear a helmet. I own padded butt shorts. umhm.
But that leaves my poor sister..... she still hadn't ridden a bike since the mid-eighties. Three years ago she and I took a 10 month old Thing 1 on an airplane ride to Washington state. We visited Leavenworth, which made me want to throw out both arms while running and sing songs from The Sound of Music. After they kindly asked me to leave town (just kidding?), we visited Lake Chelan. We stayed in a cute little resort where they had bicycles to rent. They even had one with a baby seat. I convinced my super athletic sister that biking was great exercise! and once she remembered how to do it, she would have fun and fitness, all rolled into one.
The rental bicycles were the high quality kind with no speeds and no brakes (you pedaled backwards to stop). The resort was full of hills, but they were all paved, so that was a major improvement over my parent's rock driveway. My sis was really doing well until we came upon the big hill.
The big hill was completely devoid of cars and people, save one house, where men were working on the roof and their vehicles were parked on the street. My nervous sister started down the hill carefully and slowly. She was doing okay at first, then she started to get more and more wobbly as she continued down. With the front tire lurching and jerking in every direction but forward, she wandered off course and was very slowly careening toward the three cars parked on the street. She started moaning "Ohhh!" and cursing. I witnessed as all the workmen stopped hammering to watch my sister come within inches of crashing into their parked vehicles (all at the speed of about .25 miles per hour.) Good thing she remembered to put her foot on the ground! Whew!
She was mortified.
I was laughing so hard that I had to stop my bike~ because I was losing all muscle control and feared that I might soil myself.
Here is a picture of our route, my sister's is pink:
So what is the point of this story?
If you need to feel like a professional cyclist (or just moderately competent), invite my sister and I along on for a ride and enjoy the feeling of your ego inflating- just stick to the bikes, not the horses.
And oh yeah, teach your kids to ride bikes.
I'm off to motivate Thing 1 to get out of the dirt pile (doesn't everyone have one of those in their yard?) and onto his bicycle.
P.S. I want to thank my other horsey friend for sharing her fairly recent biking story of yelling "GET OFF THE PATH! I'M COMING THROUGH!" at all people who happened to be on the bike trail while she was there, because she felt like she couldn't properly steer her bike. You know who you are and your story made me love you even more.