Biking: The Ultimate Balancing Act

To bike, or not to bike? The question has dogged me with the opening of every new bike path.

On the one hand, it’s great exercise and full of social possibilities. And I did –decades ago – ride the rusty three-speed that’s in my garage.

On the other, I might do my klutzy self in.  Not only has the Tour de France had its crashes. My very coordinated friend Patsy swore off biking after a spill.

“It’s a long way to fall at this age,” I decided. And stuck to my guns. Until I started dating a man who rides a recumbent.

“What fun to ride together,” I thought. And he was encouraging.

“It’s a lot lower to the ground,” he said, “just a little tricky to balance at first.”

Lower to the ground was appealing – not far to fall.

The laidback seat position was appealing – ease and relaxation.

But “just a little tricky” turned out to be the understatement of the year.

My first attempt was in a school parking lot and reminded me of the summer I first learned to ride.

“You can do it!” my dad had yelled, running behind me each evening with his hand on the bike. I lost my fear around the time he’d lost 15 pounds.

This time, I careened here and there, throwing my foot to the ground with every wobble. “You can do it!” yelled the Significant Other, as I momentarily took off. With each abrupt halt, he suggested it might be the grade of the parking lot that was giving me trouble.

“Let’s try another one,” he said. And we did, but to no avail.

Undeterred, I took up a friend’s offer to work with her husband, “who can teach anyone to ride,” for a second stab at it along the gentle streets of their neighborhood.

He was extraordinarily kind and patient and after 90 minutes had me balancing myself enough to tackle a gentle downward slope.

“By Jove, I think you’ve got it!” he declared. And by Jove, I thought I had. Until we got to Part 2 of the lesson: using the pedals.

The last thing I remember about Part 2 is a very quick encounter with some newly laid mulch. Which taught me that although I had less far to fall from a recumbent, I could also hit the ground much faster.

“How lucky you are,” my recumbent-riding friends pointed out, as I was picking mulch from my front teeth (which happily I still had). “You found the one soft landing spot on the street.”

A reasonable person might speculate that by now at least the to-ride-or-not-to-ride dilemma had been resolved. But no. I took one more ride (in the spirit of get-back-on-the-horse) and accompanied an apparently still optimistic SO to the bike store.

There, he gently pointed out that another option is available: a three-wheeler that is nearly impossible (I’m counting on it) to tip.

I resisted only slightly, wondering if after 90 minutes my very patient teacher might be disappointed.

“Actually, he might think it’s a good idea,” he said.

Apparently so because when I announced the trike to his wife, she politely responded, “We were thinking a trike might be the best recumbent option for you” and supplied the name of a very youthful mutual friend who owned one.

My kids, well acquainted with my klutziness, have also endorsed the choice – one offering baseball cards to put in the wheels.  But my cousin in Virginia has been the most comforting.

“I injured myself just riding a recumbent stationary bike,” she said.

Apparently it runs in the family.

Copyright 2013 Pat Snyder

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