Someone once said you never forget how to ride a bike. Whoever that was, they didn’t know me. Although as a kid I rode far and wide, for days at a time, unencumbered by a helmet, let alone a mobile phone, things have changed since then. Nothing surprising about that: it was some decades ago.
When I recently became inspired by the idea of gentle recreational rides in the balmy outdoors with my loved one, it seemed a perfect way of combining getting fit, a bit of marital bonding and dipping my toe in the trendy world of lycra at the same time. What I didn’t realise was I look like crap in lycra, bikes now have gears and brakes on the front, the seats are hell on a middle-aged bum and somewhere along the years I seem to have mislaid my sense of balance.
Balance, I know, gets shakier with age, as part of the generalised deterioration process. It’s not for adrenalin kicks after all that our senior citizens take to the streets in gophers and walkers. But I did think the days of having problems remaining upright were a long way off for me. Mostly (at least on alcohol free days) I do okay staying upright on two feet. Not so I found, once mounted (and I use the term advisedly here) on a bike.
On my first attempt, once up there, I felt like I teetered on the brink of a six-storey building. After a few aborted wobbles, and a small panic attack, I somehow got off. Perseverance however being my strong suit, I kept at it and slowly improved. There was another unforeseen interruption of a couple of years to the bike riding idyll which meant when I started over, confidence building again loomed large as my major challenge.
The first outing saw me sailing off down the road gaining in skill with every revolution of the wheels. Until I remembered I needed to practice turns. Somehow again I mislaid my sense of balance. What I found instead was myself awkwardly prone on the bitumen, the bike on its side and blood gushing from a gash on my knee. Imagining the bike as a horse however, I did the valiant thing – remounted immediately and kept at it.
Subsequent riding sessions saw me sprouting various technicolour bruises, contusions, scratches and scrapes as I made contact in a number of unexpected ways with fences, posts, tracks, bushes and other unfriendly surfaces. Eventually it occurred to me that if this went on, as well as becoming the neighbourhood freakshow, I might well kill myself.
This was when I stumbled upon (advised terminology here again) “Rikeabikeright”, a provider of bike education licensed by AustCycle. This is an organisation that runs bike training packages for children, adults, the disabled and bike-a-phobes like me. What attracted me was the offer of one-on-one sessions. When you’re a kid it doesn’t matter, but when you’re “grown up” making a total fool of yourself is best restricted to a small audience.
My preliminary online inquiry attracted a prompt response from Lee-Anne Fleming, who runs the business single-handedly. She had just the thing for me, a package called “Back on the Bike”. She sounded so helpful and enthusiastic on the phone that I quickly signed up for it, visions of happy, blood-free cycling filling my head.
My first session was no disappointment. Lee-Anne is a natural teacher – I think she could teach pigs to fly (and her challenge in my case was only slightly less daunting). She is patient, calm, a font of incredible cycling knowledge and helpful tips and as well a very skilled bike rider herself. I sailed through my session right up until the end, when I sadly sailed to the ground thanks to a too-enthusiastic drift to leeward as I was practising a left hand signal. Accustomed as I was by then to the sight of blood, it didn’t phase me too much, but alarmed Lee-Anne a bit and she quickly patched me up with bandaids. Fortunately only my pride was really wounded.
I completed my second session with Lee-Anne a week ago and this time it was even better. We progressed to riding on the streets with actual cars (albeit not many) and as well as learning even more and gaining in confidence and road skills, I managed to keep all my bodily parts out of contact with the ground (except my feet of course).
Since then, I actually went on one of those idyllic bide rides, so long the figment of fantasy, last weekend, and again it was a bloodless coup.
I can’t recommend Lee-Anne’s services highly enough. She works, as mentioned, with individuals, groups, schools, councils and essentially wherever there’s a need for bike training and safety education.
If, like me, you’d love to get back on the bike and you’re a scaredy-cat, get in touch with Rideabikeright right now. Contact details – 0431 120 802, http://www.rideabikeright.com.au.