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Timid on Two Wheels: Learning to Ride a Bicycle Again

For many, returning to cycling after years off the bike, is a daunting and unnerving prospect. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. We’ve had numerous emails from women sharing their thoughts on getting back in the saddle.

 

Many have been brought back to riding, due to injury meaning cycling is their only option to get their fitness fix. Or by the gentle persuasion and encouragement of family and friends. The want is there but so too are the nerves.

To help you gain confidence, we’re going to be following ‘Timid on two wheels’ who – without giving too much away – loves exercising, but after advice from her doctor, had to find an alternative to running.

“I grew up in an era that I shall use my lady’s prerogative not to disclose, but you’ll have a good clue if I tell you my bike as a teenager was a big red chopper. My cycling-crazed brother and I lived in the countryside surrounded by long quiet scenic roads.

Yet I never caught the cycling bug and perhaps even the fact that the bug belonged to my sibling made me less inclined to share. Especially seeing him come home shattered, sweaty and muddy, and often with something broken, whether bike, body or something more spiritual.

Although I cycled, I didn’t think I was ‘a cyclist.’ I know bikes were always there – one of my earliest memories is of somehow managing to fall of my three-wheeler – but it wasn’t a special thing to me.  My love was for running, which I could do pretty fast. I loved the feeling of powering with my whole body, whooshing past everyone and everything like some sort of spotty blonde race-horse with issues.

When I left home to grow up the bike stayed there, serving merely to trip up and annoy my Mum. Then, after an unmentionable number of years, whether it was a yearning for my wheels or threats that the bike would be sold if I didn’t get it out of Mum’s way (probably the latter), I moved the bike into my London flat so that it could trip me up instead.

It is a lovely old Raleigh Pioneer that I got for my 16th birthday, so I must have had the bug to an extent, it just never became a full blown illness. The fact that this bike still survives might be testament to the greatness of my hometown bike manufacturer or the fact that it was used so little.

The Pioneer, patiently waiting for its day in the sun

So while my loyal bike stood patiently in the hallway awaiting its time, I took up running again. I had not, to be honest, been very happy, and had become extremely unfit. I determined to make some changes and yearned to rediscover the ‘whoosh’ of my race-horse days as an energetic foal. But I guess, while my unused bike became rusty, dusty and flat, so had my body and the ‘whoosh’ seemed, jog after jog, unattainable. My running dreams were finally put to bed when it turned out that a growing, intense pain in my back was actually being caused and compounded every time my foot hit the ground. I was advised never to run again.

How am I ever going to feel the freedom and the ‘whoosh’ again?

I pondered as my lonesome Pioneer stood to attention. No, that would be too straight forward. Of course – I took up swimming. My physio told me it would be excellent for my back, but this was a second blow to me as I hadn’t been in a pool since I stopped being forced into one at school, and it represented to me something akin to the dentist. I couldn’t swim and it took a lot of mental effort to visit my local pool a couple of years ago but I actually loved it. I still go every week, having taught myself to swim by watching hundreds of YouTube videos and have now become part fish.

But the pool is a contained, artificial environment in which one goes back and forth between walls like a domesticated goldfish. Where’s the sky, the air, the sun? Where’s the journey? They’re all outdoors, that’s where!

Just as my bike was wondering why it had been brought into the world I gave it some much needed attention, a thorough clean, a few fixes and life-giving oil and air and off we went to the park. And there I found it: Not only fun, freedom, sky and air, but that ever so elusive, glorious ‘whoosh.’

I have finally realised the power and possibilities of two circular objects held together with metal tubes. Now I and my long suffering two-wheeled friend have been up and down the park many times. Luckily it’s quite a long park otherwise that would be ridiculous.

I have stuck to this roadless, familiar territory, as I am scared of the tin-rivers, the metal beasts, the bike-haters, THE CARS.

I am considerably lacking in road sense and experience and in all honesty I fear the implications of riding as a lone woman.  But my feet have grown very itchy and I need some adventure. It’s been fun, local park, but you’re just not enough for me anymore. I am drying off my wings and want to fly.

Once I get over my nerves.”

Our friends at Unbound have more stories of women getting back on their bikes which you can take a look at here.

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