It’s just like riding a bicycle, once you learn how, you will never forget.
But I did forget.
Extra pounds and many years of a sedentary lifestyle were on my mind the day my twenty year old daughter informed me I was going bike riding with her. In the weeks leading up to my sixtieth birthday, I may have accidentally said something general and vague about wanting to get active again.
I recalled my first real bicycle without training wheels. I was 10. It was a best birthday ever big deal. A second-hand blue and white Schwinn with an image of the Virgin Mary attached to the frame near the handle bars. A boy’s bike with the crossbar, a little too tall for me at first. It was one of those bikes you have to straddle the bar on your toes, get one foot on one pedal and immediately start pedaling quickly to maintain balance while moving forward.
Stopping requires planning which foot to plant on the ground once you were going slow enough to stop, while allowing the bike to lean just the right amount to come to a complete stop without falling over. The scars on my knees today bear testament to how often I practiced falling.
The experience of speeding around the block faster than walking, or even running, was exhilarating at age 10. We lived at the bottom of a long hill. I remember being comfortable with the increasing speed going downhill. I biked everywhere, my bicycle evolving with my age and lifestyle.
These memories were fresh on my mind as my daughter and I unloaded the bikes. They were both tall boys’ bikes. I placed one foot on one pedal, shifted to the center of the seat, connected with the other pedal and began to move down the bike path.
“I’ve got this,” I thought.
Then I over thought it for a quick second, began to wobble, tried to push fear away and pedal faster. I was succeeding. My mind remembered bike path courtesy and my body began steering out of the center toward the right. With the edge of the path looming closer to the front wheel, I started to wobble. Forgetting the fact that speed was a key factor in stability on a bicycle, I quit pedaling and my speed slowed as I concentrated on steering. I was calculating how and when to plant one foot on the ground while leaning the bike slightly sideways until just the right moment to stop without falling over. My body was experiencing a slow motion fall to the side, similar to some cartoons I have seen. As I sat there for a minute, I’m not sure which was stronger, feelings of embarrassment and defeat or physical pain in my knee.
I heard a calm, encouraging voice behind me, “Well… get up… get back on the bike,” my daughter said with no judgment.
I biked four miles that day.