I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was ten; my childhood was –colorful– up to that point and well, learning how to ride a bike wasn’t high on the priority list.
My brother and cousin, however, were given the opportunity to learn at the normal age of six and I, amid the beauty of prepubescent awkwardness, decided to join in on the fun.
A ten year old’s body is different than that of a six year old. It’s bigger. More clumsy. Uncoordinated. Etc. Samara learning how to ride a bike was far from elegant and could best be described as inept.
My best friend at the time was WAY into bikes. Her dad had a bike shop in the garage, each member of the family had a top of the line bicycle, the family owned a tandem bike and they participated in the Ragbrai bike ride across Iowa each year. This was a family of bikers.
So–in order to keep up with the Jones’, or in this case, the Rowell’s, I was determined to learn how to ride.
And I did…
I mean I fell a lot. Who doesn’t fall when learning how to ride a bike…
…it’s just that I would just fall. Like I would just stop peddling and tip over. Peddle peddle. stop. flop.
Let’s just say, I was never quite a ‘natural’.
But I learned.
(Please note that I am standing with the bike rather than actually riding the bike. This was common.)
So there I was, the young and impressionable, bike riding Samara–ready to take on the world with my helmet hair and cool biking gear.
There I was, at least, until the dreadful day in 6th grade.
My brother and cousin took to bike riding much more naturally than I did and unfortunately for me, they knew it. Even more unfortunately, they were little punks about it. I could generally ignore their punk-i-ness by living in the Sunshine land that created for myself early on as a coping method for unpredictability and chaos, but this day was different.
The kids had been riding their bikes down a steep grassy hill located behind the church, across the street from my aunt and uncles house. I had been watching them accelerate down the hill, listening to their wails of delight, but I had not even considered joining in on their madness.
But then the taunting began.
I was able to resist for awhile, but as the older and obviously much cooler 11 year old, I couldn’t stand in the face of their immature ridicules long and I decided to go for it.
I strapped on my helmet, got on the bike and sped down the hill. Everything was going fine until I panicked over the momentum I was gaining and squeezed my handle bar brakes in a moment dismay. Naturally my ever graceful body did a balletic spin over the handle bars landing me onto the ground with my bike laying next to me.
I died. I knew it.
Or worse. I was paralyzed.
My brother and cousin came and stood over me looking at my bloodied and mangled body and all I was able to muster out of my mouth was a whisper stating, ‘I’m paralyzed.’
As I was so completely convinced that I was either dead or paralyzed, I couldn’t move to get help and therefore my cousin had to go get her mom and my aunt literally drove the van down the hill, took the back seats out and lifted me in. I rode to the hospital laying on the floor in the back of my aunt’s van.
A couple hours at the hospital and a few X-Rays later we found out that I was going to make it after all. A minor wrist sprain and a few stitches in my mouth–but I was going to be just fine.
At least physically. Psychologically, I was traumatized and decidedly never getting back onto a bike again.
Flash forward 14 years.
My car broke down and after learning that public transportation doesn’t actually exist in Omaha, (at least not with any efficiency,) I decided the best way for me to get to my coffee shop job at 5:20am was via bike.
I had been gifted a bike not long before and the old adage, ‘it’s like riding a bike,’ was ringing in my head, so I was completely confident in this idea. That was, of course, until I got on the bike.
and fell. and fell. I couldn’t get balanced, I couldn’t get my feet on the peddles and I surely couldn’t go down any hills. I could not do this.
‘It’s like riding a bike.’ To me, this equals death.
Fortunately, one of my then roommates was (is) a saint and she agreed to re-teach me this age old skill.
It wasn’t pretty.
If I was nervous, awkward and scared as a ten year old, you can multiply those emotions by 14 and that is an equation that, again, leads to… death.
But my friend persisted. She held onto my seat and promised not to let go and then let go and I fell. Over and over and over. Until, at last, I was able to ride my bike to work.
I, however, was never able to call myself a ‘confident rider’. While I always made it to work and back, I refused to bike on the street and was convinced that I was constantly riding into danger and facing impending DEATH via bike accident.
And then I moved to Thailand with the Lorensens. This family is made up of avid bikers and lovers of all things scary and hard. So, of course they had me biking to a market within the first month of being in town.
Soon there after, I purchased my own bike and while I was greatly distressed at first, I rode it. In the beginning, my bike rides only took place on the back roads, but eventually I made it out onto the crazy, overloaded, hustling and bustling Thai roads–I even began to ride my bicycle to Thai class when I had alternative transportation options.
Samara, at the ripe age of 27, became a confident bike riding babe.
I was recently in the States for three months of resting, relaxing and library hopping. As per my usual, I had a lot of car drama during these three months and was therefore out of a vehicle on a couple occasions. Once again, providence shined down on me and I was loaned a bike.
This fearless biking mama was totally into the idea of peddling around Omaha.
Hello hipsters. Here I am.
I buckled my helmet, put on my backpack, tied my Keds and was off on about a two mile journey to my church’s office building.
My biking, hipster babe fantasy bubble lasted a whole three minutes until I actually got on the bike and was reacquainted with my former fears and a few new foes called hills, gears, cars and cold.
That bike ride can only be described as
My Keds kept sliding off the peddles, there was something like 21 gears rather than the five that I have grown accustomed to, my fingers were frozen off in the 40 degree weather and the cars…
THE CARS!! Instead of just zipping past me amid my struggles up the hills (as any Thai person would do) they patiently waited behind me—only to increase my feelings of shame and anxiety.
Basically all the awkwardness and blunderings of my ten year old paralyzed self came flash flooding back into my psyche and I never got back on that bike again.
But hey, now I’m back in Thailand where the weather is warm, the traffic is crazy and for some reason, here, I can ride a bike like a pro.