Learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage…that of leaving behind babyhood and entering the exciting world of real mobility. My second son learned when he was four, my daughter when she was ten, their brothers when they were five. I don’t remember how old I was but I do remember my parents thought I was way to young and small. I had such a burning desire to learn however, that I’d position my brother’s large bicycle alongside our high porch and climb onto the seat from the porch. I’d then have to lean to each side as I pedaled because my legs were so short…and stopping, well, that was more of a crashing scenario. For a time I was black and blue but oh how I reveled in actually being able to ride that big bike. When my father saw the fruits of my determination ( or maybe it was the sight of all my bruises) he quickly rewarded me with my very own bicycle; a beautiful blue girls bike more in keeping with my size.
My brother and I lived on our bicycles, especially in the summer. We frequently rode several miles to a little country store where we redeemed the soda pop bottles we collected from the roadside ditches for candy and gum. Since my bike had a basket where we carried the bottles, my brother rode amicably alongside me to the store but once we had divided our booty he’d ride off and leave me. No matter how hard I pedaled I couldn’t keep up with him, my legs and smaller bicycle just wasn’t up to the task. I’d soon tire from the effort and usually wind up walking and pushing my bike the last distance home where he’d be resting under a shade tree.
My husband on the other hand learned to ride on a girls bike that was left behind at a house their family bought and moved into. He rode it to school every day but was ashamed to be riding a girls bike so he hid it in the bushes just before reaching school, and retrieved it on his way home. He washed dishes every evening after dinner and did other chores to earn money to buy the bike of his choice. He finally did earn enough and ordered the best bicycle Montgomery Ward carried. From then on he always had the best of bikes….until he became old enough to drive and his interest turned to cars. Later in life he once again became enthralled with bicycles and rode one to work a few times a week until he sold his print shop.
My sons and their bikes were inseparable, they rode them all over town. One son became especially good at fixing bikes so their bicycles were always in tip-top shape. Several of my sons are still pretty serious bikers and love to ride on the weekends or take mountain biking vacations. One son, in addition to riding his bike to work and mountain biking whenever he can, is very proficient on a unicycle, riding, to everyone’s amazement, on winding trails through the forest…he has carried his love of cycling to the extreme.
Why this talk about bicycles you might wonder. Well the truth is, when I was young riding a bicycle was strictly for fun and two wheels were better any day than two feet for going long distances in a hurry. As I got older, riding a bike lost its allure and became exercise which I strongly disliked. I’m not sure when exercise and I parted company for good but it was sometime after the television craze of exercising to music and leaving my water aerobics class at the gym. I was just done with it all. My husband and children devised plan after plan to get me exercising again, some of them even adding me to their gym membership. Somehow I managed to stand my ground and refuse to indulge their rabid, and sometimes heated insistence that I do some kind of exercise.
All but one son gave up on me. About two months ago he used a very sneaky approach and bought a state of the art recumbent bicycle and had it sent to my home, afterwhich his son came over and put it together. He also sent me a set of hand weights. Well to make a long story a bit shorter, it was just sitting there making me feel guilty that he had wasted his money on such a thing so I grudgingly decided I’d give it a try. Imagine my surprise when the old thrill of riding a bike returned. Of course it isn’t quite the same, but it’s close enough to be fun and I’m actually getting some much needed exercise. I can also increase the resistance and make it harder to pedal (but why would I want to make it more like exercise?) whenever I wish. The monitor on it tells me how many calories I’ve burned and how far I’ve gone among other things, which is rather fun as well as instant gratification for my effort. I’m also using the weights to increase my upper body strength and oddly enough, that constant nagging pain in my back has disappeared!
Who would have thought the sneaky approach would get me exercising again, and even more importantly, get me to like it. Hats off to you Dan, I’m grateful to you for not giving up on me. I’m grateful too for all the fun memories that spring to mind as I pedal away. Time has a way of sliding backwards as I watch television or listen to music and relive those happy carefree summer days of my youth…oh is that honeysuckle I smell?