It’s Like Riding a Bicycle

Sometimes, I’m taken aback by how fast time is moving. It’s not that I don’t accept the movement of time–I’m very happy with where I am now in my life.

It’s more that events that took place a decade or two ago still feel like recent history. It was only yesterday that I moved to San Francisco, even though I’ve been here almost a decade. I just restarted my career in the environmental/energy space, even though that happened about twelve years ago. It wasn’t that long since I’ve been on a bike.

Except, it has been a long time. In fact, the last time I remember being on a bike was when I had to ride one for a play I was in when I was 24. I remember being rusty and nervous about riding a bike around the stage, especially a large bike that wasn’t sized well for me because the whole point of the scene was that I was a young girl riding a boy’s bike.

It wasn’t much riding either. Just in rehearsals, in the parking lot outside the theatre, and on stage, where each night I worried I would crash into an unsuspecting audience member. (Spoiler: I did not.)

Before that, when was the last time I rode a bike? I have hazy memories of borrowing a bike once during college. Other than that, just memories of biking as a kid. In our cul-de-sac. Down to the “village.” A vivid memory of trying valiantly to bike all the way across town to the middle school before I started sixth grade because in my mind, middle schoolers are too old to be ferried to school by their parents. But there are no memories of biking in high school. If I biked, it was not with any regularity.

Still. I did ride a bike. And as the saying goes, “it’s like riding a bicycle.” I have done it in the past, therefore I can.

Or at least that’s what I have always assumed. I did not stop biking for two decades because I thought I couldn’t bike. I knew how to ride. It just didn’t seem to come up. So, I didn’t.

Until last year, when my six-year-old became obsessed with biking. All summer, I found myself trailing her while she biked and I walked. I enjoyed our summer bike/walks, but as she got faster, it got more tiring to try and keep up with her on foot. And I started dreaming more and more about biking with her.

I started bugging my husband about us all getting bikes. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all take bike rides together as a family?

Still, life gets in the way, and the school year passed without any bikes getting purchased. Until last Friday, when I was at my mom’s house, and she, spur of the moment, decided that my sister and I should rent bikes for the weekend.

We rush over to the bike store before it closed. My sister just wanted any old bike, but I figured this was my golden opportunity to demo a bike to purchase. I dithered and discussed all my options with the bike salesperson, and then decided I wanted to check out an e-bike and see how I liked it.

So I rent a fancy e-bike, leave the store, and my sister gets on her bike and I get on mine.

And that’s when I realize … I have no freaking clue how to ride a bike.

“Oh my God, I can’t do this. I don’t know how to do this.” I say.

“What?” my sister asks incredulously.

“I … don’t think I can ride a bike.”

At this point my mom starts to freak out. She is in the car, but the bikes do not fit in the car. So I have this fancy e-bike rental, and am a mile and a half away from her house, and I do not know how to ride a bike.

Meanwhile my sister is laughing and lamenting that her phone has died and she can’t take a video.

We send my mom back home in the car so she can get my husband who is supposed to save me. Meanwhile, I remember how P first learned to ride her bike by coasting like on a balance bike.

So I start scooting up the sidewalk feeling ridiculous and giddy at the same time. A couple blocks in, my sister and I swap because I’m obviously not turning on the damn motor, and the e-bike is heavy and her bike is lighter.

About ten to fifteen minutes into the ride, it finally starts to click, and I start to pedal.

Because in fact, you don’t entirely forget to ride a bicycle. But you can be pretty darn bad.

About half way there, my husband shows up in the car and my sister and I decide that they should ride the bikes back while I drive the car and then I can go practice biking in the park.

Because I knew P would get a kick out of watching me ride, I grab her on the way to the park. We both are excited as I ride up and down the suburban streets in the summer evening light.

“You’re doing great, Mama!” she exclaims.

I feel exhilarated as I pedal at what feels like an unreasonable excess of speed but in reality was such that my daughter could easily run and keep up with me. Getting on a bike after a two decade hiatus felt like a great mixture of thrill ride and nostalgia for lazy summers gone by.

Eventually we got back home. “Now, Mama,” P says officiously, “I’m making a list of all the things you need to learn. Today you learned to pedal. But you have to learn to go faster, and you have to learn to do turns, and also hills. But only down hills because those are fun and up hills are hard.”

  • Trns
  • Hills
  • Fastr
  • Strate

She writes on a paper. Then she checks off “strate.”

“Do you think I can become as good a biker as you are?” I ask.

“Maybe,” she says. “But you have to keep practicing.”

I think I will. Although, I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty nervous about checking off “trns.”

Speaking of, I’m wondering if blogging is like riding a bicycle. Because I’d like to keep writing more, but no promises.

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