Bikes, part 1

Bikes – we all like bikes. I like bikes. I learned how to bike at age 27. And that doesn’t mean I rode a bike when I was 12 and then stopped. I actually got on a bike and felt comfortable with the wheels turning at the ripe age of almost-30.

As a kid, my parents tried to teach me how to ride in all of the right ways – they held the back of the bike and stayed with me until I realized they weren’t there. They did that, but it never really took. So I missed out on that part of childhood riding in a crew of bikes around a neighborhood. I never really thought I was missing much since I never experienced it in the first place.

Later in life, I tried again at random times; most notably while living in China for a year. The school that I taught English at supplied Colette and I bikes to use for the duration of the school year. On the day they gave us the bikes, I was convinced I could just sit down and know how to ride. That almost worked, I rode about 50 feet until my balance angled me towards the curb. This is when the school principal took back the bike and I never had another shot to ride my Chinese International School provided bike.

Fast forward to 2011. Nozomi, then girlfriend and now wife, and I are planning a trip to Montreal over July 4th and while researching the trip we find out that there’s bikes everywhere for free, for rent and for sale. Upon mentioning that bicycle fact, Nozomi plainly stated that she is going to teach me how to ride a bike and that we will bike Montreal.

Later that week, we went out for my first attempts at age 27. My first steps towards riding again involved the techniques my parents tried – Nozomi held the back of my seat as I awkwardly tried to pedal. When that wasn’t working, we transitioned to me trying to coast on the slightly downhill sidewalk, which after a little practice and overcoming my fear of balance, I ended up finding my groove.

That same day and just a few blocks away, a playground became the place where I conquered the bike. With a newfound moderate level of comfort, Nozomi had me ride in clockwise and counterclockwise circles with hasty stops and jumpy u-turns until the circles smoothed out and I could keep my feet on the pedals.

That was all the practice we could fit in. A month later, with not a lot of time spent practicing, I found myself renting a bike I never rode before on the streets I never navigated before. A scary pattern of events ensued:

  • Nozomi rode in front and I came to complete, screechy stops when I got within a bike’s length of her
  • On roads where both directions’ bike lanes were grouped together, I came to complete stops as bikes came toward me
  • On un-bike-laned roads, I stopped if I heard a car start, let alone see one near me
  • To cap off the trip, I hit a traffic cone at medium speed

We returned the bikes, took a survey about the rental and that was it. Looking back, I realize this that the perfect trip to calm my bike jitters included street names I will never remember and a bag full of bagels from St. Viateur Bagels. This was my bike jump off point, after this I became periodically obsessed with bikes.

More stories of me and bikes to come.

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