Until a month ago, I had not been on a bicycle since I was seven or eight years old. Then I was whisked off to a little island where bikes are in abundance and, despite telling people I don’t know how to ride a bike, I managed to stay on and pedal. Sure, I dismounted to go down hills (“But I’m not wearing a helmet!” I cried when my caution was laughed at), but I survived.
So, for some strange reason, I decided to get a bike. And I did. It’s a second (or third or fourth) hand bicycle that has been named Jean Baptiste (JB for short).
Today, for the first time since JB arrived and for the first time since I went to the bike-dominated island, I went for a ride. I had to go to the bank (despite my desire to stay in bed) and figured I should ride instead of walk. I was nervous. I tried to imagine the easiest route to the bank but my mind drew a blank. I usually walked or took a bus, and I couldn’t remember what the paths were like and couldn’t imagine how I would manage with JB.
Before I made it to the end of the driveway the handlebars had wiggled and moved, my knuckles were white with tension, and my body was soaked with sweat. By the time I had wobbled my way to the end of the street I discovered the brakes didn’t work very well (and did so with a very loud squeak) and my toes – the only part of my feet that reach the path – were not working fast enough (sorry, tree).
I walked the last ten minutes of the ride because the path got so narrow I didn’t trust myself not to teeter and tip into oncoming traffic. I briefly contemplated not locking the bike chain in hope the bike would disappear by the time I got back, but I decided that having my bike stolen on the first outing would be a little too embarrassing.
I felt more confident on the way home, despite having to dodge trees and flailing my legs about whenever I needed to stop, and somehow made my way back to my apartment (I even used the bell!) with only three injuries: I scratched my shin on the pedal, whacked my ankle (right where it hurts) against the pedal, and banged my knee on the bicycle stand while locking the chain.
And what did I learn?
The feeling of gliding along with a cool breeze circling around you is incredible.