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Source: Bicycling, written by Elly Blue
Do you remember learning to ride a bike?
I don’t mean those first heady moments of awkwardness and freedom. But the process of becoming truly comfortable on the bike—all the things that you had to figure out the hard way, even as an adult. Things that seem like second nature now, so obvious and easy that it’s hard to remember your early growing pains.
In revising my book, Everyday Bicycling, I’ve been trying to bring up those early memories—it’s surprisingly difficult. But I see other people in the same situation every day, wobbling down the bike path, pedals spinning too fast, mismanaging intersections with either abashed uncertainty or brazen obliviousness.
For me, the memory that really stands out is not being able to simply ride in a straight line. I rode everywhere on the sidewalk in those early days (another lesson since learned!) and have clear memories of seeing a crack in the pavement, thinking “It would be bad to hit that just-so” then hitting it just so and going head over heels. Even with four or five feet to play with, I couldn’t always stay on the sidewalk, and one time I ran into a wall.
Remembering those incidents is embarrassing, but it does give me empathy for wobbly beginning cyclists, and also for the many people who technically know how to ride a bike but haven’t felt quite ready to take the plunge into regular riding for reasons they aren’t always excited to discuss. Yes, riding a bike is easy, but riding it well takes some practice; support and encouragement don’t hurt either.
I asked people on Twitter and the Wheelwomen Switchboard to tell me about their early bike bloopers, mishaps, and mayhem. Tons of folks responded gamely with candid bloopers ranging from refusing to shift to deeply regrettable wardrobe choices to completely losing control of the bike. Their answers are compiled here.
In more recent years, the learning has continued, but in a different way. The more I know, the better I get at asking the right questions, and the resulting revelations may be less hard-won but their impact on my life is just as significant (if not more so). The things that blow my mind now are less about the mechanics of pedaling and more about the culture, infrastructure, research, and debates around it. Our country is in the middle of the steepest part of our bicycle learning curve right now, and it’s a deeply frustrating, confusing, enlightening, fascinating, and sometimes violent experience on a grand scale. In some ways it’s energizing to watch and be a part of it, but I’m looking forward to the day when we can reflect back on how little we were aware of what we had yet to learn.
What was your biggest bicycle learning curve?
Have a good and healthy season.
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