How I Learnt to Ride a Bicycle

Late Afternoon Bicycle Shadow on Green Grass and Barefoot Kid

I find myself thinking about the day I learned how to ride a bicycle fairly often.

It was an early summer day, one of those that seemed to stretch forever when we were kids. My sister and I used to spend our summers with our grandparents. It wasn’t a novel idea – many children our age did the same thing, so we were never without company, those never-ending summers.

I was about 10 years old, quite old for learning how to ride a bicycle. I used to feel bad about it, but being the elder child in a family with two daughters, bicycles weren’t the first toy that came to mind. Nevertheless, I felt bad about not knowing how to ride. I felt lacking somehow – all the children my age already knew how to ride that wretched thing, what did I do wrong?

The tipping point was when one of our cousins left his bike at our grandparents’ place. We got drawn to it immediately. It didn’t have any helper wheels, since our cousin was one of “them”, he already knew how to ride. Me and my sister started taking turns, trying to tame the beast, pressing tentatively on the pedals, always ready to get our feet on the ground so we don’t spill.

We tried and tried for many hours. At some point, around dusk, my sister grasped the mystery of keeping her balance, and she started riding the bike up and down the road triumphantly.

I was devastated. I felt miserably alone and useless. My sister, three years my junior, could ride a bicycle and I couldn’t – what kind of big sister am I?

I spent the day brooding in front of my old 386 PC that I used to have at the old shed. If I couldn’t do it, I would stop care about it – it’s not for me. Riding a bicycle was clearly stupid, I thought while launching Prince of Persia. For stupid, silly kids.

Something was nagging me though, I just couldn’t let it go. The next morning, I woke up at 8am, ate my breakfast in a hurry and got outside with the bike.

“It’s you and me now”, I thought.

I started the same dance – getting on, trying to pedal, losing my balance, putting my feet on the ground to steady myself. Again and again and again. At some point I realised I was crying with anger. This. Cannot. Be. I. Must. Learn it.

At that point, something clicked in my mind. Some invisible switch turned on and I knew I got it, I knew how it worked! I could force my body not to fall, as long as I kept pedaling. That’s how everyone does it! That’s how I can do it too, wheeee!

I spent the day in an elated trance, biking up and down the village road.

I still do the same dance when learning something new. I always approach it with skepticism. I paw at it like a kitten paws at a ball of yarn. I look at my peers and reprimand myself – “How can you NOT know this by now? What kind of scam are you?”. I have all the symptoms – the brooding, the mild case of psychosis, the angry tears (sometimes). It’s all there.

“It’s you and me now”, I have said to my cousin’s bike. So silly. It was just me and me, after all.

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