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Riding a Bike: It’s Not for Everyone

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Bicycles and I are not friends. We have a mutual understanding: If I don’t get on one, one won’t kill me. So when I moved across the country, I was shocked to find a bicycle in the moving truck along with my old dresser and beanbag chair. I demanded an explanation from my mom, who simply said, “One sunny day, you may wish you had one.” How could it be that my own mother, my own flesh and blood, could know me so little?

I had been on a bike only twice in 15 years. Both times, I fell off, hit my head, blacked out and woke up with a broken body and a concussion.

And now here it was again, my mortal enemy, staring me down at my very own doorstep. It had followed me across the country. It could find me anywhere. I kept the pink shiny beast chained up outside. Sometimes when I walked past, I swear the bike would call out to me: “I am your friend. Don’t you think I’m pretty?” But I stayed strong. “I will not give in to you, Bicycle! You will not best me!”

Then it happened. The day my mom had forewarned.

Last week, a bright and beautiful sunny day cut through the clouds and cold that had plagued my neighborhood. Sun lovers took to the streets, moving swiftly on anything with wheels — skateboards, scooters and bikes.

I looked over at my old foe, the two-wheeled temptress, chained up, looking sad.

And I thought, I don’t want to be one of those people who live in fear, do I?

I broke the peace treaty. I unchained the bike.

Running my hands over the handlebars, I pleaded, “Please, please. No injuries. No falling. Please.” And my pretty bike acquiesced to my request. I did not fall. But a true nemesis always has a trick up its sleeve. I should have known never to trust a Trojan horse, or, in my case, a Huffy.

I hit the streets of my neighborhood.

I was shaky. As I slowly swerved from side to side, a line of cars formed behind me. I waved my arm, signaling for them to go around, but there wasn’t enough room, and I knew that. Then the honking began. I had to take to the sidewalk, the scary sidewalk, where roots had jutted up slabs of concrete and any number of atrocities could be waiting to bring me to my knees.

Terrified, I looked around for hope, for a sign I was meant to continue on this fear-facing journey. And that’s when I saw my bicycle guru.

A young boy, about 7 years old, zigzagged his way down the jagged sidewalk. This kid knew these streets. He knew how to ride, how to survive. It was magnificent. I pedaled behind him, giving him a friendly wave hello when he looked to see who was on his tail.

I mimicked the kid’s movements down the streets of our neighborhood, delighting in how well I was doing. No longer having to worry about the sidewalk perils underwheel, I was able to work just on my riding. Not to brag or anything, but I was doing awesome!

The kid pedaled faster and faster, down the neighborhood streets and into a cul-de-sac. I followed, thrilled I could ride fast enough to keep up with my new buddy.

That’s when he rode up a driveway, threw his bike down and ran into the house screaming, “Mom!”

How could I be so stupid?

I never had considered that my riding lesson could look like a two-wheeled kidnapping attempt to my bike guru!

My brain flooded. Fight or flight? Fight or flight? Maybe I could calmly explain to bike guru’s mom that I, a fully grown adult, am afraid of riding my bike. No, no, that sounds ridiculous. I should run. But then I’d look guilty. What to do?

I chose flight.

I rode back to my place, quickly chained up the enemy and ran inside my house, locking the doors, afraid to show my face. Mortified.

I think it’s time I call Goodwill to schedule a pickup. The bike knows too much.

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