I do not know how to ride a bike. It is embarrassing. I am 32, and the only bike I have ever truly mastered was a tricycle when I was 5. I always feel ashamed to admit I cannot ride a bicycle. By my age, you are supposed to know that. It is like one of those life skills you obtain when still being a child: like learning how to walk or how to eat with a fork. Everyone knows how to ride a two-wheel friend. I have never met anyone who cannot.
My mother, my dad, my sister – all ride bikes well. When I was a kid, we used to ride bikes for 2 hours (one way!) to get to our summer cottage house (also called dacha, where we planted veggies, but nothing ever grew). My sister had a vintage blue bike; my mom had a heavier dark blue bike with thicker wheels, and my dad…he had some giant bike, the color of which I do not remember now. I do, however, remember the orange child seat attached to the front of his bike. This was my seat. This was my bike ride. We went to the country house every single weekend, and I quite enjoyed riding a bike …
enjoyed having my dad ride a bike with me on top of it.
So say the truth, I had always been afraid of bikes. They looked like metal monsters with little control, but a lot of power. I’ve always associated this fear with an accident that took place when I was, I don’t know, maybe 6 or 7. It was a summer day, and I was bored at home. We lived in a high-rise apartment, and there was a backyard with swings and playground. A lot of kids played there, and I went to play there too. I spent two hours on the swing and was already ready go home.
When I wanted to cross the street towards my house, I realized I could not do it: 10 or 15 boys were riding bikes back and forth, speeding like crazy, not letting anyone cross the street. Swoosh, swoosh. There literary wasn’t an opening for me to cross the street. I did not know what to do. I just stood there frozen. I decided to go around the street and cross the street in another place. I was lost in my thoughts, thinking about these annoying boys and I did not see one cyclist going right towards me. I saw the big wheels approaching me. I saw the metal monster clinching its teeth. The boy thought I would jump off his way, but I stood completely paralyzed. I closed my eyes and lost my consciousness.
The next thing I remember was the dirty asphalt and the upside view of the house. I was lying on the street, and my arm was stretched in an unnatural position. It wasn’t broken, but it was definitely looking twisted. My sister found me on the street and brought me home. I remember my parents put the Russian “all-cure ointment” on my hand and told me to lie down. I was home. I was safe. The two-wheel monsters were far away.
This was the turning day in my life. It determined my absolute fear of bicycles. I could not force myself to ride a bike. And I was terrified when I saw a cyclist approaching me. When I ask my parents about this story, they always say I made it up. That it never happened, and it is just figment of my imagination. My mom would brush off and say: “Don’t tell fairy-tales. Such a serious accident never took place.”
And I wonder: how could my psyche create something that realistic? I remember everything about that day distinctly. The burning sun, the crazy speed of those cyclists, the feeling of lying on the street, the pain in my hand (although I never felt it was broken, only bruised). Did I dream it all?
Was this story true or not, but I never tried to bike much after that. I rode a bike maybe 2 more times in my life and only because of peer pressure and me not wanting to look ridiculous in the eyes of my peers.
I turned 32 this May, and my boyfriend bought a birthday present for me – gorgeous strawberry pink hybrid bike with vintage style brown leather saddle and brown wheels. It took my breath way. It did not look like an enemy. It looked like a friend I was finally ready to have in my life.
We have been riding and enjoying our bikes for a month now, almost every day. I still feel pretty frightened every time I see another cyclist approaching me. I still have issues with handlebar control, especially when going down the hill. I still sometimes wish it was a safe and familiar tricycle.
I still sometimes wish I was back to that little orange seat, feeling the breath of my dad sitting behind me and cheering my mom and sister to catch up with us.