Up until, oh I don’t know, August of 2018, I didn’t know how to ride a bike. Stop. Seriously stop reading. Let that sink in for a minute. I’ll give you a minute to regroup…
No, my parents were not neglectful jerks. They taught me. With a cute pink bike with glittery tassels on the handle bars and an adorable white whicker basket with plastic purple and pink flowers on the front.
I have such fond memories of them holding on to me, saying, “you got this, sweetie,” and riding up and down my block until the sun was setting, trying desperately to master the skill. But, my good ol’ social anxiety set in at age 7 and I was all, “I’m going to go inside and write and color forever,” and I never flung my leg over a bike again.
Until at the not so sweet age of 31 when I started to date a guy who lived and breathed for bike riding. He literally said, “bike riding is really important to me, Kate.” And I internally whispered to myself, “fuck.”
I bet you’re wondering how I got away with not riding a bike between the ages of 7 and 31? Yeah. Me too. I guess it was a lot of, “oh guys, I’ll meet you there” or “shoot, I’m in heels.” But you know, I don’t really remember being hassled much, so thanks, friends and family!
Let me tell you, it wasn’t embarrassing AT ALL telling him I couldn’t ride a bike (it was one of my finer mortifying moments in my life). Spoiler alert: he didn’t break up with me, so that was cool. He also didn’t believe me, because, “:::stupid man voice::: it’s just like riding a bike.” Right.
So, in the heat of summer, down the shore, in shorts and flip flops (because I also barely own sneakers… that’s a different story), I walked to a “quiet” part of the street so I could prove to my boyfriend the saying, “it’s just like riding a bike,” it complete and utter hogwash.
I flung my leg over the thing and immediately felt this surge of, “okay… okay… I got this.” But this “quiet” area he found for me to learn was in between two motels. And all of a sudden I felt like a sideshow act. Like the vacationers weren’t there to sit poolside and relax, but came for the week to witness an actual adult woman not know how to maneuver a bike.
The lesson ended with me not remembering how to break, internally freaking out that I was going to break my face, quickly flinging my foot down while I was still in motion, and horribly stubbing my toe. To which I hopped off the bike and said calmly (no I wasn’t), “I’m done. That’s it for today. I’m not giving up. But today I’m done. I’ll try again later (no I wasn’t).”
I had done the impossible. I proved to my patient and encouraging boyfriend that a person could, indeed, forget how to ride a bike. Tai from Clueless was right, except I wasn’t a virgin who couldn’t drive, I was a loser who couldn’t ride a bike. Way harsh, Tai, but accurate.
His words, “bike riding is really important to me, Kate” kept playing over and over in my head as I took my walk of shame and defeat. As a gaggle of kids rode by on bikes, I screamed, “Ohh yeah just ride along like it’s nothing. You think it’s SO easy. SOOOO easy,” a la Carrie Bradshaw when a guy bumped in to her on the street after her boyfriend broke up with her on a Post It.
We didn’t broach the topic again until we went on vacation together with my family. He went to go rent a surf board and a stand up paddle board (as one does), but also “surprised” me with a bike. “Hey, it’s here if you want to give it a try again.” (Nope)
But one morning, I gave the lesson another go (I must have had my vacation ritual of champagne before 10am). I got on, and with his words of encouragement, “keep peddling, don’t stop, you got this, just keep peddling,” I took tiny little baby steps to successfully riding without falling or stubbing my toe. In fact, I went around the block, a thank you :::hair flip:::.
I immediately ran into the house and was all, “MOM, MOM, did you see me?! I rode a bike without dying!” To which she responded unenthusiastically, “Kate, you’re 31.”
For the rest of vacation, I was the one asking my boyfriend to go on bike rides… simply so I could scream at gaggles of kids riding, “HEY! LOOK AT ME! I’M DOING IT, TOO! YEAH. SUCK IT.”
What can I say, my story is a lot like Oprah’s. Her talk show first went national when she was 32. I learned how to ride a bike when I was 31. I’ll be launching my own TV network shortly. Stay tuned…