Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Uneasy Rider

This month I've been learning to ride a bicycle.

I'll sit back a second while you digest that information.

I know you thought you were reading the blog of a middle-aged- professional on the fringes of the music industry, rather than that of a six-year-old removing his stabilisers but there you have it. I never learned when I was younger and now I have to suffer the ignominy of having strangers gawp at me as I wobble around the parks of Coventry. This in itself is not unusual as strangers seem to stare at me generally and at present I always wobble - hence the bike training.

I'm not quite sure why I never learned in childhood; a combination of disinterest and relative poverty I s'pose with a heavy bias towards the former. I wasn't a sporty child so that may have had some bearing even though I still spent more time outdoors than children today seem to.

I'm now forced into it, being unable to run and finding swimming about as entertaining as daytime TV, I needed another form of cardio exercise. Cycling isn't as easy as it looks though, I'm still having trouble with a few things - steering, speed, braking, gears, perineal discomfort (y'know) and knowing where to put my massive feet on the tiny pedals.


Aside from the stares I get whilst trying to learn (the ones that make me feel like I've grown a second, even uglier head), the worst thing is that other people make it look effortless. At least with running I knew that I was doing something that few others had the inclination or ability to do, with cycling it appears that everyone from the very young to the very old can already do it.

When you tell people you're learning they at first look at you as if you're simple, and then go onto tell you that it's easy, conveniently forgetting that they learned a long time ago when their brains were more porous and their sense of fear less pronounced. I'm getting over the latter. At least now I don't feel like I'm going to maim or kill myself every time I go out, although a couple of pensioners and some small dogs might want to renew their insurance policies before they come across me.

The other problem is that there's no-one to teach you how to do it; no-one to run behind you holding the seat. My kids are very proficient but they seem rather unwilling to accompany their old man on a bike ride. The obvious shame of being seen with an adult who can't ride a bike is clearly too much for them, particularly as the adult is me. My daughter finds many excuses from staying in bed, catching up on episodes of the Bill or even doing homework. Being 12 I guess she has a highly developed sense of embarrassment and social standing. Since I have neither of those things I can career around the park with only the density of my bones and my skull to worry about.

I also have yet to find a cycling proficiency course for 44 year olds. Even if I did, I'm not sure I'd want to go. I think I'd feel like I'd slipped down the evolutionary ladder, somewhere around amoeba. There are enough opportunities in every week for my self-esteem to take a battering without joining a bunch of people who are all attempting to do stuff they should've learned years ago.

I am getting better - I'm now using four gears, so only another seventeen to go. I also now seem to be able to stay in the saddle for 10 mins at a time. Eventually I want to do that standing up pedalling thing that I see everyone else doing, and to be confident enough riding on the road to go out and buy myself a helmet. For now though not embarrassing the children would be sufficient.

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