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It's never too late!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Riding a bike is a rite of passage. When you're still a little tyke, Mom and Dad surprise you with a shiny new two-wheeler for your birthday, plus a helmet (and maybe knee/elbow pads if you're as clumsy as I am).

You're so excited! It's just what you wanted! Now you can ride with all the other kids in your neighborhood instead of watching them longingly from your tricycle.

With training wheels, biking is easy. You're not afraid to fall, so you ride faster and faster. You take pride in your accomplishment, but you know that some day those training wheels will come off and it'll be just you and your balance versus gravity.

Riding on two wheels is scary and exciting at first. You're afraid you'll fall--and sometimes you do. But you get up, brush the gravel from your knees and the tears from your eyes and you persevere until you get it.
That's how the story usually goes. However, my bike-riding story lasted almost 22 years, with two decades of defeat and denial.

For my fifth birthday, I got a shiny new bike, with purple palm trees adorned the padding on the bars. "Miami Miss" was her name, and my dad immediately set out to teach me. A cautious bookworm of a child who was never into sports, I didn't mind riding with training wheels. Up and down my grandparents quarter-mile rural driveway, I rode, my confidence growing each time. Faster and faster, I pedaled. The training wheels were there. I was safe.

Then my dad took off the training wheels, and I froze. Despite three years of ballet lessons, my balance on a bike was awful, and I fell over and over. I was fine until he let go of the bike. As soon as I realized my safety net was gone, I'd fall.

We soon moved, to a town where kids didn't really ride bikes. For the next 20 years, there was little need to ride a bike. Miami Miss languished in our garage, her shiny body rusted and her purple trimmings faded. Sadly, some time ago, she was put out on garbage day.

I was able to hide my secret. No one asked, and I never told.

I decided in my early 20s that I never needed to learn how to ride a bike. My younger sister also can't ride a bike, and her father-in-law (a very successful real-estate investor and former Naval officer) can't either. My friend Cynthia, a PhD candidate at Harvard, can't ride a bike. Plenty of successful people can't ride bikes, I thought.

In recent years, not riding a bike has become a bigger deal. My boyfriend and most of my friends bike, I live in a city where biking is common, and gas prices are rising, making biking all that much more appealing.
Also, I've "gone green." I recycle, buy organic, and try to limit what I buy. I use only natural cleaning products, reuse glass jars, and combine trips to save gas. I lower the thermostat, use newspaper as gift wrap, and shop at thrift stores when possible. Biking is a logical hobby/mode of transport for the eco-minded person.

More often, people asked me why I didn't ride a bike. Finally, I had to start admitting: I can't ride a bike. Their reactions were mixed, but many offered to teach me.

Last winter, I decided I was going to learn, and on a rainy and cold Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, my two best friends and my boyfriend took me to a city park for lesson. The first 30 minutes were rough. I kept dragging my feet to stop, couldn't catch my balance, and was afraid of falling.

Eventually I kept my balance and actually rode! We rode along a trail for about 15 minutes. I was so proud of myself!

I did it! I fell once, but my injuries were limited to a scraped knee and a bruised shin.

I kept talking about how fun it was and that I wanted to buy a bike soon. My boyfriend was apparently listening, because for my birthday last week, he surprised me with a shiny new red mountain bike. I actually cried. (He forgot a helmet, so we're sticking to the park and empty parking lots until we buy one this weekend.)

For 20 years, I avoided bike riding and ignored my defeat. It would have been easy to go my entire life without learning how to ride a bike. I'm so proud of myself for reaching this goal--something I never thought I was capable of doing! I credit SparkPeople, in part, for the extra push. I've always been a motivated person (aside from bike riding), but since I started working here, I've become even more inspired and motivated! I've seen what some of our members have done, and I think, "Wow! If they can do that, then surely I can learn to ride a bike!"

It took a lot of strength to decide to face my fears and set aside my ego to learn to ride a bike at 26. I have had some people judge me, and I admit that I was a bit embarrassed to pedal my bike wobbly past 4-year-olds learning how to ride and be passed by 10-year-olds on the trail. But you know what? I did it, and that's all that matters!

I'll meet you on the trail!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MACGIRL730
    Hi and congratulations on learning to ride! I am much older than you (just turned 51) and my husband is an avid rider! I am so jealous when every morning he suits up and off he goes to one of the many beautiful trails there are to ride on around where we live!

    I was brought up by a VERY protective father, rest his loving kind soul. But, when it came to me riding a bike I was always frightened of one thing or another and never really felt comfortable. Zoom into the present time and well it is not just like getting back up on that horse, I have simply forgotten how to ride a bike. I am clumsy, shakey, and have fallen one too many times, I feel foolish.

    I must say, that your post has given me the encouragement that I needed to get back on that bike, take it slow, and learn all over again! emoticon I want to join my husband on these great scenical tours he so enjoys and the great exercise that it truly is!

    So thank you, I was feeling alone in my "inability to ride", and now, I see that it is possible to learn, I think, even at my age!

    Thanks again for the great post, Stepf!!
    Keep riding! Suzanne emoticon
    4360 days ago
  • no profile photo RBHAFEMANN
    When I was about 9 or 10 my parents got me a bike. That was 55 years ago. We weren't rich, so it wasn't a 3-speed and it didn't have hand brakes or thin tires. I have NEVER been able, as an adult, to ride a bike with hand brakes or gears. Last year my husband got me an Electra Townie bicycle. It has coaster brakes and only 3 speeds. The frame and seat are lower so that you can mount it standing flat footed, and it's really comfortable. I'm still panic-stricken when I ride, and I don't have great control yet, but I can ride around my peaceful neighborhood now without falling off. Maybe someday I'll actually enjoy it.
    4362 days ago
    Congratulation, I tried failed and never got back on one! Now I wish I had.
    4362 days ago
    Congrats!! I'm 50 and never learned. I never got a bike as a kid. There was no place to ride one. Now I want to learn; Ijust have to find someone willing to teach me! emoticon
    4363 days ago
    Way to go!! Congrats!!! Such an inspiring story!! I can't wait to get out and ride my bike!! emoticon
    4364 days ago
    You go, girl! I am 37 years old and I don't know how to ride a bike. You have given me hope. emoticon
    4366 days ago
  • WYDANI71
    I am in your shoes...I got my bike out of storage this past weekend...I only rode it maybe 6 times.... My boyfriend commented on the tires because they still have the little "spikes" on them...I didnt have a bike growing up...and I am almost 38...and a little scared...but he promises to take it easy on me at first...I might be able to ride with my youngest child (he's 5) and (since the oldest is married and in Germany) my middle one (who is 16) and my b.f. who loves to ride....I will check back providing I dont break anything!!!.... emoticon
    4368 days ago
    Wow that is great, good for you!
    4371 days ago
    goes to show yournever too old to do anything! Good for you!
    4373 days ago
  • LUCNAN2004
    I think it's kismet i'll say made me find this page. actually i'm 31 and i just learnt how to ride a bike 2wks ago. i know exactly how exhilarating it feels to finally conquer both balance and gravity. Right now i'm working on ridind a bike while standing and also learning how to swim.
    4379 days ago
    Thanks, everyone. I've been blogging lately about my progress with biking. I actually rode 32 miles on the trail two weekends ago! Keep reading!
    4380 days ago
    Ur a true inspiration!!....I actually don't know how to ride a bike and I'm 35!!...My parents didn't get my sis and I a bike till we were about 12 and well being very petite, only 5' tall, an adult bike didn't cut it....so I retracted into what WAS my unsport like self and never learned....now I've come to the conclusion that I must!....I really want to learn and ride outside of spinning class!....so thanks for posting this! emoticon emoticon
    4380 days ago
    emoticon emoticon on your accomplishment!
    4381 days ago
    That is pretty cool. This is inspiring cuz I dont know how to ride a bike OR swim. Wish me luck!
    4383 days ago
    Thats wonderful and thanks so much for sharing that with us. emoticon
    4386 days ago
    I LOVE your blog! I live in the NorthWest and I swear everyone rides a bike. My boss game me her gently used road bike and it is sitting here staring at me and begging me to ride it. My boyfriend and I are planning a weekend getaway to go try new things. He already rides so he will show me what to do. I haven't been on a bike in over 14 years!!!!!! Wish me luck and I wish you the best of luck:)
    4388 days ago
    I just learned how to ride a bike at 33 and I love it. I've been every day it's not raining for the past 7 weeks. It's awesome!! I now prefer it to walking. lol.

    4389 days ago
    great story ..i understand ..i am 59 and just learning ..i fell off twice ..i got an electic one ..i had the seat lowered and feel confident now because i can reach the ground ..good luck i am on a trail too bye Diedre
    4389 days ago
    What an inspiring blog. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story.

    4391 days ago
    Funny. I never learned to ride a bike either, and recently have been trying to talk myself out of my embarrassment so that i can learn because i really do want to go riding with my son (who i taught how to ride his bike).

    4392 days ago
    Congratulations! I've re-discovered biking as an adult and I really love what it does for me, inside and out. Suddenly it's fun to run errands AND save gas!!

    4392 days ago
    I've never learned to ride a bike myself - I'm petrified. But I can honestly say your blog makes me want to learn. :] Thanks for the encouragement!
    4394 days ago
  • CNICK28
    I never had nor learned how to ride a bike growing up ,and at 31, felt too embarrassed to even try, though I really want to. Thanks for sharing !Now I know I can get out there and do this thing emoticon
    4396 days ago
  • MEJAI1
    Yay for you! I was a late bloomer too. I remember falling off my bike at 4 and then not getting back on until I was 14. I did ride quite a bit after that, but I just bought a bike (for the purpose of riding to work) last Saturday. I will admit, that at that time (I'm now 40), I hadn't ridden since I was in my early twenties, and I was afraid. But... I did manage to ride the bike - the guy at the bike shop said, "Hey, it's like riding a bike!" And I've now ridden to and from work three times and a couple of days for recreation. I hope that your story inspires many to do their parts to heal the planet, save some $ on gas, and heck, get some exercise too!
    4396 days ago
    Glad to know I'm not the only one. My Dad always said he never taught me to ride a bike because he was too fat to run alongside me. They do sell adult training wheels and as soon as I can afford it I'm going to get a bike and adult training wheels and use them till I build up the muscles I need. (I'll just ignor the laughing!) Then I'll try without them!

    4396 days ago
    Your story sound like mine,and I still have not learned to ride a bike at age 60+. We were on vacation a few years ago and we decided to rent bikes. I could not balance the bike on the road. Needless to say I was quite embarrassed. I did not learn to ride a bike until I was 16 and I don't believe I have ridden a bike since then until we went on vacation.
    4399 days ago
    I also don't know how to ride! Need to learn! Thanks for sharing your experience.
    4399 days ago
  • MJOHN40143
    Congrats!!! I learned how to ride a bike when I was young and I too at age 51 keep saying I'm going to get a bike for health reasons. However, I keep thinking about how I would look while riding. You have motivated me to go for it. THANKS
    4400 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/25/2008 7:34:49 PM
  • no profile photo CD2519886
    4403 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/22/2008 9:16:18 PM
    Congratulations! I've been trying to get my 30 y.o. hubby to learn to ride a bike. Gas prices are insane these days and it's such a great way to get in shape while going "green." Keep up the great work! emoticon
    4404 days ago
    Awesome job!! My niece learned in her 20s.
    I know how to ride but haven't ridden much, so I am overcoming a lot of fear, but you have to just push through, right? KUDOS!
    4405 days ago
    OMG. I thought I was the only other 26 year old on the planet who didn't know how to ride a bike. I don't know how to swim either. Those tasks were left to my father to teach, so it really isn't a surprise that neither my sister nor I can ride or swim. This was the man who couldn't teach my mother how to drive stick shift in an empty parking lot.

    I remember my pink bike that I got for my 6th birthday. I too was great with the training wheels (as was my sister on her first bike), but as soon as they came off....that was the end of that.

    I really want to learn, but I'm afraid of falling. How lame is that? I also don't have a bike and have no idea which would be best to learn on. I dunno. I think I'll have to go out at about 2am and try so I can avoid getting laughed at by all of the native San Franciscans flashing by on their Shcwinns....

    4405 days ago
    Great job! I learned fairly late, but I was still a kid... I can definitely relate to how proud you must be though!.
    4406 days ago
  • RAMONA121
    Congratulations!! I am so excited for you. Happy trails!
    4407 days ago
  • PERFECT121
    Hello. Well done on that. I'm 53 years old & never learned to ride one either, apart from a two wheel scooter or tricyle when I was a kid. When I've lost a bit more weight, I think it's worth a try now the general fitness is improving! Better late than never. Reassuring to hear so many other adults don't use one either!
    4408 days ago
    Congratulations! I have been thinking about learning how to ride a bike myself, but I always feel like people will just make fun of me. I am encouraged to give it another try! emoticon
    4408 days ago
    Same again; never got the hang of riding a bike as a child but thanks to Nic my wonderful partner, I'm learning at the grand old age of 53. So far I've been out five times and yesterday cycled eleven miles. I'm a bit cross with myself that it's taken me so long to learn but it really IS never too late. emoticon
    4408 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/18/2008 9:21:23 AM
  • no profile photo CD354766
    You go girl!! That is awesome!!! :)
    4408 days ago
  • no profile photo SANOUA77
    I was so happy to know that somebody else is like me who doesn't know how to ride a bike.
    I am really inspired by your story and i am seriously thinking about learning how to ride a bike now.
    4409 days ago
    So happy I can inspire you! Subscribe to my blog, (click on the link at the top of the page) and I'll be sure to share more biking stories :) I want to start taking long(er) bike trips with my boyfriend!

    4409 days ago
    Wow sounds like me. I learned to ride when I was 11, I was not very adventurous however and just road in the parking lot. Fast forward many years ... for my 30th birthday my husband purchased matching bikes so that we could go riding together; well because I was ashamed at not being a good rider and being slower than my husband I just didn't ride. I'm now 42 and have become fearful of falling, and of what others might think. My six year old daughter recently got her training wheels off and has been whizzing all over the place. She's been trying to get me to join her. I really don't want to miss out on this time in her life or mine for that matter. So I think I need to throw caution to the wind and get on my bike. Thanks for the inspiration!

    4410 days ago
  • MICHAELA2780
    I came across your blog while I was Googling "How to learn how to ride a bike"!! Your story is MY story! Except, I still don't know how to ride a bike! My husband has said that he will teach me...I, too, credit SP with helping push me to finally decide that it's okay to learn at nearly 30!

    Reading your blog has helped me realize, even more, that I can learn how to ride, too!!

    Thank you!
    4410 days ago
    Way to go!! You should be so proud of yourself. For me bike riding is liberating in all the ways that encouraged you to conquer your fear. I love getting around town by bike, I can get my exercise in and be green at the same time! You can't beat that.

    Enjoy all your bike rides!

    4411 days ago
    Ahhhhhh..Congratulations... BE FREE with it and Gett'em BOO!! Ahhhhhh! emoticon
    4412 days ago
    Thanks for sharing. It just goes to show, learning is a lifetime process...
    4412 days ago
  • no profile photo CD2039103
    What a great story! Congratulations and enjoy your bike! emoticon
    4412 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this. I have a similar experience. I used to ride my brother's BMX bike when I was a kid, but as an adult, I couldn't ride a regular bike - not sure why. I can ride, but I'm wobbly on sharp turns & stops. Just takes some getting used to & building up confidence, right? I'm inspired to ride my bike now, after reading your post. :-)

    4415 days ago
    Good for you. This was a nice read.
    4416 days ago
    Incredible, I was just thinking this morning about all the things I want to accomplish this year. Learning how to ride a bike was something I was embrass about for a long time. Thanks for sharing this story. I am encouraged to know that I'm not the only one. emoticon
    4417 days ago
    I still don't know how to ride a bike, but I sure would like to give it a try. It's nice to know I'm not the only one. emoticon Thank you for sharing your story.
    4417 days ago
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