Jun 282011
An old bike against a wall

There’s not many good things about learning to ride a bike when you’re 30. It’s not only hard learning to ride itself but there’s a whole load of complications that come along with doing so when you’re 30. People look at you and aren’t really sure what’s going on. You have to get on your bike, fall off and ignore all the people looking at you and then do it again. And again.

It doesn’t even ease up when you’re finally on the road. Pedestrians and other road users assume you can ride the bike, after all you look like someone who can ride a bike: ie you’re a grown man and you’re on a bike.

Except that you can’t ride the bike or at least ride it very well. Long, straight bits of riding are mastered pretty quickly but as far as anything else is concerned you don’t really know what the hell is going on. Turning left is fine but I can’t put out my arm and indicate or I might fall over and as for turning right, forget it. As a friend pointed out, I’m the Zoolander of bicycles. Yes, I have the same comedy attribute as a fictional character. Bugger.

Small children wonder why you’ve not overtaken them. Why? Because uou’re afraid you might be killed by the car behind you at any moment if you try to take to overtake. The fear of death is not the ideal way to start your day but what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger. But for a while it is genuinely terrifying to not be in full control of some peddle-powered contraption while 2-tonnes of metal races past you about 20 centimetres away. People will say ‘you just need some confidence’, well yes, but confidence isn’t a switch you can just flick on, it’s some you have to work at.

When you arrive at your destination, people don’t seem very impressed when you announced that you got there by bicycle, by bicycle! Can you believe that! They look at you look like they are not really sure what’s so impressive about that or they notice that you appeared to have briefly assumed the characteristics of a 5-year-old. Which you have. You’ve learnt to do something most people managed when they were a kid.

I’m not really sure why I didn’t learn to ride a bike when I was younger, it just never really happened and then you get past the point where you want to be seen learning a bike. Then you get to 20 and then you get to 30. I’d almost given up hope but public transport can be an awful, dispiriting experience especially when you have no other choice. You have to get on the bus, you have to pay for the privilege and you have to an hour for the bus, frequently.

Margaret Thatcher said a man should consider himself a failure if he doesn’t own his own car by the age of 25. But then Thatcher was a mad women who when not destroying the fabric and economy of society, hated working class people and thought a person should value themselves based on whether they own a motor vehicle.

Spend thousands of pounds on a vehicle so I can drive to and from work and never go any where because I have no money? No thanks. Also I don’t really want to help pollute the planet. It would be nice to be able to get in to a car on the odd occasion – road trip! – but to go to work everyday? I have a number of other ways to be part of the machine and generally kowtow to the Man.

So the cars out, walking sucks and you start to hate public transport. But you can’t cycle and then there’s the niggle. That awkward feeling that you’re not doing something because, well you a big fat coward. And cycling would help with the fat. Sometimes a man has gotta do what a man has a gotta do and sometimes that’s getting on a bike and falling off.

But there are a couple of great things about learning to ride a bike when you’re 30. I’ve learnt it’s never too late to do something. That the more difficult it is to do something the greater the reward. And that humiliation and fear aren’t really the obstacles that they may sometimes appear to be. All clichés but all true. I learnt to ride a bike, finally, in about a minute. All it took was an empty car park, some encouragement and a bit of courage to look like a complete and utter fool every now and again.

The best thing about learning to ride a bike is that you can bloody ride a bike! It’s amazing! It’s fun and it gets even more fun when you turn right – you can go almost anywhere! And it’s fast, really fast, places become a lot nearer all of a sudden.

You can also give your bike a really cool name. A lot of people give their bike or car a name like Bob or Geoff. How ironic. Forget it. Give it an awesome name. Call it Phantom or Speed Demon. Sir Bike-a-lot is taken.

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