Mission Ride a Bike: Lesson 1

As advertised, I am learning to ride a bike.

Bike riding 101 took place in Riverside Park. For non-New Yorkers, it’s the park where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meet at the end of You’ve Got Mail.

What’s not pictured in the culminating scene of the film is Tom Hanks’ ferocious beast of a golden retriever whizzing around, taunting me as I wobble precariously on Matt’s mom’s bike.

But I’ll back up.

I was really nervous for my first lesson. A good chunk of the nerves stemmed from the fact Matt was teaching me and I didn’t want to throw the same hissy fit I threw in the early 90’s that got me out of bike riding in the first place.  And my concern was: did I have enough material for an entirely new hissy fit about biking?

But seriously.  I wasn’t sure I could handle failure graciously. I was worried I’d have a hard time learning and that I’d get really embarrassed and frustrated at my failed attempts. But that didn’t stop me from trying.

I met Matt at the park and coincidentally we wore matching outfits. #YOLO

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Matt had googled “how to teach a grown human how to ride a bike.” His research was illuminating!  I am not alone. Extensive tutorials exist on the topic of late on-set bike riding. We practiced balancing without pedaling and getting more comfortable guiding the bike without making sharp movements.  I felt like a Big Bird. Disproportionate and with no chance of going unnoticed. Little kids zoomed around me as I wobbled about doing pre-bike riding exercises.

We lowered the seat so that I could always touch the ground with my feet, which made me feel more in control. My knees were basically in my armpits. And since I was forbidden from pedaling I kicked the ground to propel myself forward. I looked like a disproportionate duck. Overall it went well.

But here is where I ran into Trouble. Trouble is my code name for a little six year old show-off who zoomed around me on her roller blades. She presumed – since I am of adult qualifying height – that I know how to adeptly navigate a bike. She (and others like her) would zig and zag near me, expecting I had the skill to move out of the way. But I don’t have that sort of motion control yet. And I was concentrating on not choking on my own knee caps.

Every time we passed it was a face off. A unspoken war brewing between us. Me looking nervously into her tiny eyes and Trouble bewildered at my lack of eye/bike coordination.  My hands gripped the handles tightly enough each time she skated by that my knuckles turned white. I am the picture of grace.

After a series of close calls and near misses, I think we both learned a lot about sharing the road. Mostly that we can’t. Not yet at least.

We ended the lesson on a high note though (I rode in a circle a few times) and I definitely have more work to do.

I am still in the market for shin guards, just in case Trouble comes back for me. Any leads?

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