I’m 23, turning 24 after a month. I weigh 8kgs more than I should. I walk clumsily. I’m prone to colliding with objects that don’t move. I can’t cross busy roads alone. I can hardly run a few metres without stopping for breath. And I do not know cycling.
In my defense, I never got the opportunity to learn cycling nor did I have much interest in it when I was young. Now that I realize I’m 24 and I just theoretically know to drive a car and nothing else, I decided to learn to ride a bicycle.
First Blocker – There are hardly any schools that would teach you cycling. Of course, I think there are none.
Solution – I spent 50% of my savings (Yes, I hardly save anything) and bought a new bicycle – a blue Avon Foster bicycle (I call it my bike, no other names, I’m not 8 anymore :-P) on 29th March 2015.
Second Blocker – They laughed when I asked for training wheels. “Not available,” they said.
Solution – I decided I have all the time on earth, so I can do without the extra wheels.
And thus, I bought my first bike at the age of almost-24, and I was ready to learn. My friend and colleague, Venkat volunteered to coach me.
Session 1: 30th March’15
Time: 7:30am – 8:00am
I was being too cautious. I was too afraid to fall. With the amount of fats I have in me with hardly any muscles I had no energy to push the pedal well. He’d push the cycle, the cycle would hardly move a couple of meters, and it would tilt; I’d stop.
I was whining that I’d never be able to do it right, that my weight would never make me balance it well, and I have no energy. I feared I’d fail miserably.
I returned home learning what I thought was nothing.
Session 2: 31st March’15
Time: 8:00am – 8:30am
It was just like Day 1, except the fact that Venkat would push the cycle enough that it would go further, perspiring as he did. The cycle would go lop-sided as I’d be unable to balance to my weight. I just had a little fun as I got to pedal for longer seconds, while he was somehow both pushing and balancing the cycle. His patience was laudable, my progress was not.
I decided I should not waste his time much, that I should just sell the cycle off and quit. He encouraged saying, “at least I didn’t have to teach you about how to handle the handle. You’re doing it all by yourself and you’re doing it well.”
I learnt using the brakes that day to save me from falling because I was so afraid to fall in front of other people. We were practicing on the narrow roads near his apartment.
I intentionally overslept in the morning. I didn’t turn up.
Session 3: 1st April’15
Time: 11:00pm – 12:00am
I was tired of failing, so I decided I should just stop being so cautious about falling and let myself fall. I wore my sports shoes, long trousers, brought antiseptic cream, muscle pain relief gel and I was ready for the day, I mean, the night. We chose the night time as it was cooler during the night-time and that would help Venkat perspire less. And I was in no mood to lose this time.
The first time he pushed, I rode my bike for a few metres, and then fell on the hard ground. The second time he pushed I did fine but when I tried to pedal myself I fell again. By the end of the day, he would just give the initial push to the bicycle and I’d ride for more than 80metres. I was more than happy. My calves were badly bruised, I had scratches on my palms and legs from falling. I was in pain but the pain was worth it. I realized I’d be able to do it.
Session 4: 2nd April’15
Time : 11:30pm – 12:30am
For the first few times, Venkat would push me and I’d ride for the length of the entire road (150 metres or so). After a while, I learned to push my own weight myself. I’d pedal, balance and enjoy the ride. While returning, I’d just lift the cycle and turn it around for I didn’t know to take U-turns. While attempting left and right turns, I fell badly on the ground as the stem of the bike was looser than it should be. My knee was wounded, bleeding and in pain. We called it a night.
The knee was in so much pain that we dropped the practice for that day.
Session 5: 4th April’15
Time : 11:30pm – 12:30am
The worst part was over now – I had already fallen, so there couldn’t be anything worse, there was no more fear. I practiced U-turns till I perfected it, and then I was all good to enjoy the ride. He’d be on his bike – a Hero CBZ and I’d follow him on mine. The feeling was awesome as I rode myself home, 2kms away.
5th April and on –
I’ve been on my own ever since, confident. I ride my bike daily as I drive to and fro my friends’ place. I go to the market on it and I go to the tea shop on it. I have even gone cycling on a very busy market road after which I decided that people don’t really follow traffic rules here, and it kind of pissed me off. Sometimes, I cycle out of necessity and sometimes I do it for fun.
Lesson learned: Dare to fall. Once you are done with the falling, the fear, which is so much larger inside your head, disappears and you’re all game to learn.