For well over a year we’ve been trying to get my youngest son interested in riding his bike. Since he was three he would quite happily jump on a scooter and dash up and down our street with confidence. But with the bike there’s been a bit of a block. I think he assumed he would just hop on, like he’d seen his brother do so many times, and be away. What he didn’t seem to realise was that big brother had been through the same difficulties in learning but the key was to practice, practice, practice……. and to get right back on if you fell off.
On Easter Monday of this year’s Easter break he did it. It had taken a lot of cajoling. There had been a lot of good cop/bad cop. There had been tantrums and tears. I had threatened to throw the bike Santa had brought in the bin. I had been soothing and encouraging and yet still nothing.
And then suddenly on that Easter Monday, when it was just the two of us, that new motor pathway in his brain caused new synapses to open up and his nerves and muscles produced all the components he needed to ride a bike without stabilisers. But then he fell off. He cried and cried and his elbow was bleeding. I thought he would throw the bike down and give up, but he didn’t. The discovery of something as fantastic as riding a bike was far more important than a stinging elbow and hurt pride. The tears slowed, I wiped them away and he rode away squealing with glee at his new found ability.
Fast forward to Monday of this week and I found myself lying in a hedge having fallen off my new bike.
I was taking a much needed break from writing an essay and it had been all I could do to focus on that instead of taking the new bike for a ride. I was biting the bullet and going out clipped in for the first time. I managed to clip in no problems and I cycled my familiar route. As I came up the lane to a different village the road started to narrow. Then almost too late I realised that the cars in front were reversing towards me to let a big truck through. I panicked, unclipped my right foot and for some reason tried to put my left foot, which was still clipped in, down to the floor. Sideways I went into the hedge.
I threw my arms up in exasperation, feeling a bit silly. The truck driver slowed down, looking a bit startled.
‘Are you okay love? I saw you fall and it looked like it was a heavy one. Are you sure you’re okay?’
‘Yes thank you’, I replied ‘Just didn’t, couldn’t *mumble mumble nervous laugh*.
Relieved that I obviously wasn’t injured the truck driver gave me a thumbs up and drove off.
As I got myself up I contemplated going home. I was a little bit shaken. I was concerned that being on my own I might fall again and if I really hurt myself what would I do? And then I realised I was being ridiculous, especially after all my youngest had been through to learn to ride. Every time he had fallen or wobbled I encouraged him to get back on and carry on and yet here was I, the adult, quite prepared to wimp out at the first opportunity. I wasn’t even hurt apart from a bruised ego. So after a few stern words with myself and deciding to be a bit more mindful about unclipping and deciding which foot I was actually going to put down, I continued on my first ride on the brand new bike.
I can’t quite believe the difference a new, lighter bike and being clipped in actually made. I had been told by a friend that I would be able to push and pull which meant more power, speed and better control. I have to admit he was right. The local hills felt far easier to climb and my bike actually picked up speed on the down hill. I was interested to see if Strava had picked up the difference, and it had. I was riding 2 km faster than I would have on old Paula and I completed the ride 5 minutes faster than the last time I had cycled that route. Plus it was a joy to cycle rather than the awkward, rattling, laborious chore it had become. The clipped in aspect seemed to work itself out as my own brain eventually forged new motor pathways the same way my son’s brain had developed new pathways to ride his own bike.
As I cycled from village to village I ruminated over new names for the bike. I still fancied calling her Dibaba after Tirunesh Dibaba ‘the Baby Faced Destroyer’, although my husband said it was daft to name a bike after a runner. I also wondered how big my Thunder Thighs would get riding my awesome new wheels. Then I decided Thunder Thighs would be an awesome name for a cycling super hero or even the title of a comic: The Adventures of Thunder Thighs and The Baby Faced Destroyer. Next adventure, hopefully attempting a ride over forty miles while being clipped in on The New Bike. Will I have fall number 2? Stay tuned!