We were rolling along, me perched near the front of the banana seat, him running beside, one hand on the back of the seat, the other on the handlebars, and suddenly I panicked. I slammed back on the coaster brake and sent him tumbling down the street. I believe he swore at me then. It was the ’70s after all.
He said, “Why the hell did you do that?” And I replied, “I was afraid I wouldn’t know how to stop if you let go.”
We called it a day there.
This is all to say I was not and am not a natural on two wheels. Oh, I’m tidy enough now. I can do some things and go some places, but I didn’t take to the bike like a duck to water. I took to it like a duck to astrophysics.
My recollection is that we took a trip to Wales that summer, that someone loaned me a small red bicycle with solid white rubber tires and left me alone in the steep driveway of my grandparent’s bungalow, perched on a hill above the village. It was there, and on maybe my third try, that I just lifted my legs and coasted away, two-wheeled balance suddenly making sense where previously it had seemed not possible.
Then I was churning away at the pedals, up the village lane to my uncle’s dairy farm. Back and forth I’d go, bridging two worlds less than a quarter mile apart. It’s a miracle I didn’t get run over by a passing car or tractor, but as I said, it was the ’70s. No one worried much then about children.
Back in the States I inherited my brother’s dark purple nightmare of a bike and rode that around our neighborhood for a year. The bike was everything then. It was every day. It was all a kid needed. I like to think it still is.
Anyway, this week’s TCI Friday asks: What are your memories of learning to ride a bike? Who taught you? Or did you teach yourself? What was the bike? How old were you?