As part of the Let’s Get Moving Campaign, I decided to write about my recent cycling adventures in the hope of encouraging others to start cycling again, or even better, to learn to cycle for the first time.
I’d never learnt to cycle as a child. I displayed most of the symptoms of dyspraxia whilst growing up, and so things like riding a bike and tying my ties and shoelaces I had difficulty with. I assumed that cycling was not for me. My cycling adventure started mid to late 2012 after I’d decided that I could not put it off any longer. Whenever somebody I knew learnt that I couldn’t cycle, I would always get a shocked reaction followed by laughter, because it is something they began as a child without even thinking about. As an adult there were many embarrassing moments when I had to admit I couldn’t ride a bike and miss out on cycling trips.
After the Olympics, having watched the British cycling team practically demolish the competition (7 out of ten possible gold medals went to the British team on the track), I decided that enough was enough. If they could do those incredible feats surely I could learn to stay on a bike without falling off? Somebody I knew had previously tried to teach me with no success. This time I decided to get professional help. I googled “learning to ride a bike Birmingham” and found Cycle Solihull. I got in touch with an instructor named Stephen and booked a block of five lessons over a week in Solihull centre.
I arrived for the first lesson feeling rather apprehensive, thinking that this was probably not a good idea. The track I was learning on had a school nearby so lots of school kids were watching me at various points which did not help. Stephen assured me that I would be able to learn within the five lessons comfortably, but I did not believe him. After a lecture of the physics and the structural engineering behind how a bicycle works I practised going downhill. By the end of the first lesson I could balance a lot better than when I started. In the second lesson I had the eureka moment, where I was pushed to start and I kept balancing. My brain had adjusted so I could balance on the bicycle. By the end of the week I could ride confidently, I still could not control where I was going properly, however this I could work on later with lots of practice.
The point is that I learnt to do something I thought I would never be able to do. It felt really liberating. As strange as it sounds I took the belief from this new found ability “if I can ride a bike I can do anything”. This is statistically not true, I still cannot jump to the moon unaided and I still lack the ability to stop a worryingly large number of people being afraid of British spiders (they are our allies in the war on flies!). However, I have tried to take this attitude into the rest of my life, to help give me confidence in the challenges I face, and confidence in my abilities. I am training for a marathon, where the training is intense. Many times I remind myself of that slogan to prevent me from quitting.
After a lot more practice, which involved a lot of crashing into stationary objects and falling off for no apparent reason, I started to gain more confidence. I decided that cycling was a good way to get across the city of Birmingham, even before I was really ready to! Buying my first bike was a very proud experience, something I never thought I’d own. After sticking to the paths for a small amount of time I ventured onto the pot holed roads. It became obvious very quickly that the roads are an adventurous place to be for a cyclist.
I am improving as a cyclist, learning how to be safe on the road, as well as enjoying the independence of being able to go where I want in Birmingham. No long waiting times for buses or train delays. Even if it takes longer for me to get there on my bike than it would on public transport, I often choose my bike because it is more fun and I have more control over my journey. I really enjoy cycling, when the snow and ice was really torrential recently, I spent most days longingly looking at my bike. I actually struggle to imagine what it would be like not to be able to ride it any more.