This post is sponsored by Glaceau fruitwater.
I do not know how to ride a bike.
Why didn't I ever learn? This is a great question. As a wee thing, I wasn't sure about my abilities to negotiate my body through space. If I tripped while walking, who was to say what could happen when I was hovering above the ground on some kind of wheeled contraption? My parents tried to convince me such a thing was "fun," but I've always held that sitting still can also be "fun," and far less dangerous. Anyway, I was the youngest of three kids, and by the time I came around, they were probably worn out. All the fight had gone out of them. I argued against bike riding, and eventually they gave up. (This is also how I convinced them, ten years later, to buy me designer jeans.)
So I never learned. At some point I could have sucked it up and figured it out, but the older I got, the more embarrassed I felt about it. As the years past, I hid my not-knowing. I acted like it was a Dark Secret, a thing No One Could Know. With the haunted look that came over my face whenever we were on vacation and friends suggested a bike ride, you would think my entire family had died in a tragic bicycling accident. Or I had murdered someone with an air pump.
Then I became, you know, a parent, with all its annoying duties, and one of them is being a role model or whatever; so when Henry announced that he would never learn because I didn't, I knew what I had to do. I signed up for an adult bike-riding class.
Yes! That is a thing! Here's another reason I love NYC: more people here than in the average city do not know how to ride bikes. (I mean, I'm guessing. I haven't done any polls.) This is probably because the streets are treacherous and no one should be allowed to catapult their unprotected bodies around on wheels and why was I learning this, again?
I decided to set aside my fears regarding the dangers of actual street-biking, and just take the class. The class is two hours, and I was told that everyone who takes it leaves feeling happy and confident with their newfound bike riding abilities. It seemed positively magical. I would enter an insecure, non-biking child; I would leave a speed-freak on wheels.
Henry and Scott came with me to the class, both to provide a cheering section and to make sure I didn't bolt and get a pedicure instead. So we made our way to a parking lot by the Brooklyn waterfront, and I tried not to throw up from fear. Little kids do this, I told myself. Toddlers. Of course toddlers do lots of things, like eat dirt.
My class consisted of eight people, ranging in age from early twenties to late seventies. They were an excited, friendly group, and I decided I was not nearly the most uncoordinated person there, so I felt better. We put on our helmets and climbed on our practice bikes. I almost fell over trying to climb on. So did Enid, the seventy-something woman in a floral blouse and slacks. I righted myself faster than she did, though. Take that, Enid.
Then we practiced pushing off and gliding with no pedals. Around and around we went, in circles, pushing and gliding, pushing and gliding. I was getting the hang of it. I was going to be a triathlete! I mean, once I mastered the whole swimming and running part. I tried not to think about how bad my crotch felt. "Shouldn't these seats be more padded?" I asked anyone who would listen. On we went, gliding and pushing, gliding and pushing. When we were ready, we were told, the teacher would attach the pedals back to our bikes, and each rider would start pedaling and then ride around like he or she had been riding our whole lives.
And it went just like that…for everyone else. One by one, I watched my fellow classmates advance to Confident Pedal Use. I decided to keep enjoying this whole pushing-off and gliding thing. Then I saw Enid getting her pedals, and I knew it was time. No way was Enid going to show me up.
So I got my pedals. And I tried. And I tried, and I tried. Every time I brought my feet up, I chickened out, brought my feet back to the ground, and the pedals would whap at my calves and I would whimper in defeat and pain. (I have photos of my bruised calves, and they are too gross to share. It looks like I'd been set upon by gnomes.) Then I'd try again while the teacher called out to me, "PEDAL ALICE PEDAL PEDAL PEDAL ohboy."
I tried pedaling (and tried and tried) for the remainder of the two hours. I was so close, but my feet wouldn't do it. Enid was biking in circles around me, shouting encouragement. I told myself not to push her over.
And, after multiple attempts and near-wins and ultimate failures, that was it. Most of the class had already left, having perfected their biking technique. The class was over, and I hadn't learned. Not exactly. I mean, I was close, but if there had been a diploma, they wouldn't have awarded one to me. So why was I so damn happy?
Because, I realized, I wasn't saddled with that ridiculous Dark Secret anymore. I didn't care about it. I got out there in public, struggling in awkward sweaty circles on my pedal-free bike in a decidedly non-desolate part of Brooklyn, learning with my fellow adult learners. People stopped and watched. Kids pointed, and I waved, and they waved back. No one really cared, and neither did I. I did not care one bit. I probably looked like a jackass, but I was having fun.
So what's a little pedaling ability, compared to that? I'll get my feet up there and moving correctly one of these days (in circles, right?), and once I do: look out, Enid. If I see you in a bike lane, I'm going to high-five you from my bike, and hope we don't both fall over.
Glaceau fruitwater asked me to share my "sparkling truth," and that's mine. You are hereby encouraged to share your own #sparklingtruth, or respond in any other way you find suitable.