I had a whole post drafted reviewing a new studio called BFX in Chelsea. But I decided instead of sharing it, I would tell you to click here and get a free class during their opening week, and decide for yourself if you like it. (I did). Teach a man to fish and what not. They use a fancy technology with a heart rate monitor and public
shaming accountability, like the Torque board in a Flywheel class.
Let’s talk about what you’re really here to read. Nicole + Bike = <3?
I’ll get real with you. I had a setback. After not riding for a few weeks I got back on a bike this weekend in the Berkshires and lost my mojo. I forgot how to brake like a gentle giant. Instead I squeezed the brake latch with the expediency that – well that I do a lot of things. I freaked out about cars. I freaked out in general. Luckily my biking instructor (Matt) has experience teaching two year olds and was able to get me back on track by having my repeat some early lessons. But we didn’t make any forward progress.
A bit frustrated, when I got back to the city I searched the internet for “Adult Biking lessons.” Shockingly, while many existed, all were full. But fate has a funny way of working, I checked again later that night and boom: one spot opened up in the next day’s class at Bike New York.
I signed up for the most primary level class: Learn to Ride- Adults. The class cost $0, but is not funded by the city. Bike New York is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to facilitate bike riding in the five boroughs. I am not entirely sure that the whole thing isn’t a bogus project set up by Matt’s mom to get me to learn to ride a bike.
Everything about this experience was wonderful and so extremely weird. What is the strangest place to teach a 30 year old to ride a bike? If “a community center gym in Roosevelt Island” was your guess, please pick up your prize at the end of the post.
The class was led by an incredible instructor named Barry. Barry looks like a bike rider. He is in his 50s, tall and lanky and has a healthy tan. His speech is calm and even paced. Joining Barry were seven volunteers who had all been trained for this very purpose. Everyone was kind and non-judgmental.
My 15 classmates varied in age from early 20s to senior citizen. When we entered the gym we were fitted for helmets. One of the walls was lined with bikes in size order. We were prompted to organize ourselves up in height order and find an appropriate bike. Fun fact: I was the tallest person in the class.
Then we stood next to our bikes and Barry gave us the 411. He taught us about the ABCs which I think means Air Pressure, Brake, and Chain – the list of things to check before cycling off into the sunset. Barry started talking about the kickstand when I looked down and saw my bike didn’t have pedals. Oh. Then I noticed none of the bikes had pedals.
Extolling the importance of balance, Barry explained we were going to learn how to move sans pedaling. So the lot of us kicked ever-so-gracefully around the Roosevelt Island SportsPark gymnasium attempting to propel ourselves forward and keep our feet floating. Not to brag, but I was a total ringer in this motley crew, having done this exercise ad nauseam before. My fellow student, Vincenzo (a grandfather and spinning instructor – stationary bikes only, obviously) yelled “there’s always one in every class!” when I pushed off the ground and flew my legs into the air.
Max, the oldest of the bunch and also the second tallest, was next to me in formation. He was having trouble lifting his leg over the bike in order to sit on it. “Nicole, can we switch bikes?” he asked but when I turned around from a few paces ahead one of the volunteers was lowering his seat.
Eventually a glorious icecapade-esque dance formed. A circle of 16 grown up misfits kicking their feet while gliding on pedal-free bikes in a gymnasium in Roosevelt Island, or Tuesday at 1pm as we call it in biking school.
Now I was not named Prom Queen, but I was the first to “earn” my pedals in adult bike school. This was both a blessing and a curse. You move a lot faster on a bike when pedaling and all of my classmates were still kicking. This made doing any actual riding a bit tough. But I broke formation and kept going, working on braking gently.
I made some progress for sure. But since we were on flat land, I couldn’t use the gears, which is something I need a little help with.
Eventually more people earned pedals. Such a bizarre and heartwarming sight. Full-grown humans who no less than 90 minutes ago could not ride a bike were pedaling and swerving around the gym. Yes there were collisions. Yes it was hysterical. But my big takeaway was I’m glad this exists. I think I am ready for the next level class which focuses on stopping and starting and gears. I was probably already ready for that class but I can’t say it wasn’t a fun way to spend 2 hours.
Watch me ride. (You’ll see me stopping a number of times. That’s because the goal here was to stop gracefully using the 100% the brakes and 0% my feet. I get it right, eventually.)
Where to go for adult biking lessons in NYC: