Today I’m going to tell you the story of how I learnt how to ride a bike.
It was a drizzly day in August last year. I had booked myself a ‘Cycling for Beginners’ lesson with a firm called Cycle Confident. I’m not quite sure why I did it, if I’m honest with you. I’d tried to ride a bike several times before. Once it was with a local cycling centre that boasted a ‘97% success rate’. I was one of the 3% that failed. Then there were the times I’d gone on family holidays to Centerparcs and my husband had tried to teach me. You should never ask a spouse to teach you to drive or ride a bike. Let’s just say that there was a lot of shouting and yelling and lots of accusations of incompetence on both sides.
I had resigned myself to the fact that I had no balance or coordination and that, because I never learnt when I was young, I was never going to learn. I remember my husband dropping me off at the park where the training was being held, a look of ‘Oh no here we go again’ in his eyes. My daughters were a bit more enthusiastic. ‘Good luck Mummy!’ they screamed and waved, looking up at me with excitement on their faces. My husband then rolled his eyes when he saw me going in the wrong direction and getting a bit lost before I managed to get to the tennis courts where the training was taking place. There were several people there already, on bikes, riding around in circles. This made me incredibly anxious. What had I, an unbalanced 38-year-old Indian woman who couldn’t even walk without getting lost, got myself into?
I shyly introduced myself to my instructor, an enthusiastic man named Joe. He was younger than I expected, very laid back, and smiley. This wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
“So how much can you ride?” he asked.
I found it difficult for words to leave my lips. There were tears in my eyes and I felt physically sick. What on earth was I doing?
“I can’t ride at all,” I said, almost a whisper, my eyes welling up. I was that nervous.
I don’t know whether Joe is just one of those men who is oblivious to emotional women or whether he was polite and chose to ignore the fact that I was paralysed by fear.
“That’s no problem,” he said. “You can stay here all morning until you learn. Don’t worry, I’ll teach you. I’ve got all the time in the world.”
Joe then went through the basics with me. He taught me how to ‘pedal set’, how to get on the bike, how to scoot. I told him I didn’t have any coordination, because that’s what people have told me all my life. His reply was ‘rubbish’ and he just carried on teaching me. Before I rode on the bike properly, he said this to me, and it is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life:
“The one thing that stops people learning anything is their belief that they can’t. Learning to ride a bike is not about what you do with your body. It is all in your mind. That’s all. Once you believe that you can do it, you will. It might take you 5 hours, but you’ll get there. I believe in you.”
I looked at him as if he was mad. What was all this new-age nonsense he was talking about? Was he on drugs? But I decided to give it a go. What was there to lose?
It took me about ten attempts with him holding the saddle before I could actually get on the bike without wobbling and go in a straight line. However, on the eleventh attempt I managed to get to the other end of the tennis court. I was really glad that Joe was still holding on. I got off the bike and looked. Joe wasn’t behind me. He was at the other end of the tennis court, sitting on the bench, sipping his take-away coffee that he’d bought from the cafe.
I had ridden a bike on my own. This wasn’t meant to happen.
Joe gave me a knowing look. He’d obviously seen this many times before. However, it was a life-changing moment for me. I felt emotional, a mixture of both joy and disbelief. I remember I took the bus back home and there were tears rolling down my face. I had done something that I never ever thought that I’d be able to. I was not the person who I thought I was. And it felt amazing.