Thursday, July 9, 2009

Learning How to Ride a Bike at 24

One of my best friends in the world, J.La, recently learned how to ride a bike. Here's her story.

Why didn’t your hippie parents teach you how to ride a bike?

They claim that when I was of bike riding age, I was too afraid of falling and I would throw tantrums whenever I tried to ride a bike so finally they were like “forget it.” I just think they were just bad parents.

Did any of your siblings know how to ride a bike?

Yep, each and every one of them. All three. There was this bike path in Lexington (MA) where I lived and they would all leave me on Sunday morning to take bike rides together. They would be like “peace out” and I just sat home watching cartoons. That’s why I’m fat.

What did you do when you were a kid and all your friends were riding bikes?

I was too petrified to ride a bike. When I was 12 I remember Jenny Brown had a bike riding party and I didn’t go. I was horrified. I was so afraid that I would go to summer camp and bike riding would come up and I wouldn’t be able to do it. That’s part of the reason I picked Farwell (our summer camp) because bike riding wasn’t an issue.

How did you learn to ski at such a young age if you were afraid of riding a bike?

I learned to ski when I was two because I was too young to be afraid. I turned two in December and by that spring I was skiing. You know those little leashes that some parents put their kids on? My parents would use the same thing—they put me on a harness and we would go down the bunny slope. Also, I didn’t really have a choice: skiing was something we did every weekend of every winter. I didn’t think I’d be able to learn to ride a bike because I don’t have great balance. The only reason I know how to ski is because I learned at such a young age.

What made you want to ride a bike?

I always kind of thought: I really should *bleep*ing learn how to ride a bike and then I’ve met a lot of close friends that would say “I’ll teach you, I’ll teach you” but when it came down to it they’d be like “How the hell do you teach a twenty-four-year-old how to ride a bike?” (you can clean this up for your blog).

Who taught you how to ride a bike?

I made my brother teach me in Denver, where he lives, because I was like, “We’re related, you have to do this.”

Was he excited about teaching you?

At first he was into it but after I made him go to 25 different bike shops to find the bike I wanted, he was kind of over it. I went to Denver thinking I could buy a bike off Craigslist for $125, so I really wasn’t looking for anything fancy but he took me to see all these Craigslist bikes and he’d be like “No, you don’t want that.” So finally we went to all these shops and four days and $400 later I had a new bike. Finally he said, “I’ll buy it for you and your Dad can pay me back.” I still don’t know who bought this bike, I just know I put $125 down for it.

How did your brother actually teach you how to ride a bike?

That’s the thing: he has an alley in the back of his house and we went in the alley and he was like “I don’t really know what to tell you.” I basically taught myself, in all honesty.

Did he hold the back of your seat and run alongside you?

He did that a few times but I mostly cursed at him so much that he left me alone. I was riding up and down the alley. Finally he saw me and he was like “Alright, let’s go to the park.” So an hour after I had learned how to ride a bike, he takes me through the streets of Denver to the park--granted it was 5 blocks away, but I’d never ridden on the streets before. We got to the park and we had to cross this little pedestrian bridge, and I almost rode entirely off the bridge. All these people around were like “Is she wasted?” because I’m so old but I assured them “No, no, this is my first day riding a bike.” I skinned my knee which I think is a rite of passage.

What kind of bike do you ride?

That’s the thing – I’m no Lance Armstrong. I was just gonna get a cruiser and look fly. I ended up getting an Electra Townie. It’s bright blue with white tires.

Were your parents excited that you learned how to ride?

I think they were more surprised than anything else. Basically, they don’t have a lot of faith in me.

Are there bike lanes in Jackson Hole, WY?

There are bike paths—it’s awesome, you go through this little field and then there’s the mountains and there’s a creek too. I’d definitely want to try mountain biking so that I could try riding on some of the trails. Maybe if I’m here next summer.

How was riding a bike? Was it different than you’d imagined it would be?

Now I know what people mean when they say: “It’s like riding a bike” – it’s an indescribable thing, but eventually your body just gets it – it clicks. You never regress. I don’t know if it’s your brain or your muscles, but something just clicks.

How often do you ride your bike?

I ride it every day to work (4 days a week) and I ride it once or twice a week to get around town.

Do you think you would feel comfortable riding in a busy city?

I would like to think so, but in Jackson where I ride my bike the speed limit is 25 mph tops. Also—people are a lot nicer here so I feel like they are used to yielding to bicycles. I’m not sure that would be the case everywhere.

Would you opt of out having a car?

That’s what I like about living in town – but I can’t [ride my bike] all year around [in Jackson Hole]. But I’m doing it while I can.

If you had kids (cough yeah right? cough) would you teach them how to ride a bike?

Oh yeah, my kids are learning how to ride a bike. I’ll just tell them: “Listen, Mom didn’t learn how to ride a bicycle until I’m 24 and you’re not going through the same thing I did.”

Are you surprised you actually taught yourself?

I’m proud that I learned at an older age. Whenever I’m riding around, I feel happy that I finally learned and I have a huge smile on myself. It’s such a simple thing—it’s great.

What would you say to someone who is learning to ride a bike?

If I can do it, anyone can do it.


  1. Great that J.La decided to learn cycling. One is never old enough for that. Well, most of my friends learned how to cycle as a kid, but didn't do it for ages afterwards. Now they claim that they can't cycle and are too afraid to do it in traffic (well, most of them don't even own a bike nowadays). I think it just needs people to show that this can be learned too, and that it's not difficult at all. Hope I can convince them, and I'll surely use this as an example :-).

  2. I have a friend who wants to learn how to ride a bike also, I told her to start with a cruiser coz it's much closer to the ground vs road bikes. She's afraid of falling too lol