Inspiring Stories: Ditching the Training Wheels, at 26

2SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
8/10/2008 11:08 AM   :  78 comments

Riding a bike is a rite of passage. When you're still a little tyke, Mom and Dad surprise you with a shiny new two-wheeler for your birthday, plus a helmet (and maybe knee/elbow pads if you're as clumsy as I am).

You're so excited! It's just what you wanted! Now you can ride with all the other kids in your neighborhood instead of watching them longingly from your tricycle.

With training wheels, biking is easy. You're not afraid to fall, so you ride faster and faster. You take pride in your accomplishment, but you know that some day those training wheels will come off and it'll be just you and your balance versus gravity.

Riding on two wheels is scary and exciting at first. You're afraid you'll fall--and sometimes you do. But you get up, brush the gravel from your knees and the tears from your eyes and you persevere until you get it.

That's how the story usually goes. However, my bike-riding story lasted almost 22 years, with two decades of defeat and denial.
For my fifth birthday, I got a shiny new bike, with purple palm trees adorned the padding on the bars. "Miami Miss" was her name, and my dad immediately set out to teach me. A cautious bookworm of a child who was never into sports, I didn't mind riding with training wheels. Up and down my grandparents quarter-mile rural driveway, I rode, my confidence growing each time. Faster and faster, I pedaled. The training wheels were there. I was safe.

Then my dad took off the training wheels, and I froze. Despite years of ballet lessons, my balance on a bike was awful, and I fell over and over. I was fine until he let go of the bike. As soon as I realized my safety net was gone, I'd fall.

We soon moved, to a town where kids didn't really ride bikes. For the next 20 years, there was little need to ride a bike. Miami Miss languished in our garage, her shiny body rusted and her purple trimmings faded. Sadly, some time ago, she was put out on garbage day.

I was able to hide my secret. No one asked, and I never told.

I decided in my early 20s that I never needed to learn how to ride a bike. My younger sister also can't ride a bike, and her father-in-law (a very successful real-estate investor and former Naval officer) can't either. My friend Cynthia, a PhD candidate at Harvard, can't ride a bike. Plenty of successful people can't ride bikes, I thought.

In recent years, not riding a bike has become a bigger deal. My boyfriend and most of my friends bike, I live in a city where biking is common, and gas prices are rising, making biking all that much more appealing.

Also, I've "gone green." I recycle, buy organic, and try to limit what I buy. I use only natural cleaning products, reuse glass jars, and combine trips to save gas. I lower the thermostat, use newspaper as gift wrap, and shop at thrift stores when possible. Biking is a logical hobby/mode of transport for the eco-minded person.

More often, people asked me why I didn't ride a bike. Finally, I had to start admitting: I can't ride a bike. Their reactions were mixed, but many offered to teach me.

Last winter, I decided I was going to learn, and on a rainy and cold Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, my two best friends and my boyfriend took me to a city park for lesson. The first 30 minutes were rough. I kept dragging my feet to stop, couldn't catch my balance, and was afraid of falling.

Eventually I kept my balance and actually rode! We rode along a trail for about 15 minutes. I was so proud of myself!

I did it! I fell once, but my injuries were limited to a scraped knee and a bruised shin.

I kept talking about how fun it was and that I wanted to buy a bike soon. My boyfriend was apparently listening, because for my birthday in May, he surprised me with a shiny new red mountain bike. I cried.

For 20 years, I avoided bike riding and ignored my defeat. It would have been easy to go my entire life without learning how to ride a bike. I'm so proud of myself for reaching this goal--something I never thought I was capable of doing! I credit SparkPeople, in part, for the extra push. I've always been a motivated person (aside from bike riding), but since I started working here, I've become even more inspired and motivated! I've seen what some of our members have done, and I think, "Wow! If they can do that, then surely I can learn to ride a bike!"

It took a lot of strength to decide to face my fears and set aside my ego to learn to ride a bike at 26. I have had some people judge me, and I admit that I was a bit embarrassed to pedal my bike wobbly past 4-year-olds learning how to ride and be passed by 10-year-olds on the trail. But you know what? I did it, and that's all that matters!

Update: On Friday, my boyfriend and I rode our bikes 80 miles on the trail for an overnight trip. Three months ago, I couldn't ride a bike, and now I hit the trail every weekend!


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Comments

  • 78
    I also cannot ride. I learned a little bit as a child, but as soon as a I got it, I didn't reinforce it.
    I get very negative reactions when I admit that I cannot ride a bike, as well as lots of offers (from people who I don't think are capable of teaching) to be taught how.

    I'd like to ride a bike into town, and even complete a triathlon--- but I'll have to wait till the time is right I guess. - 9/1/2010   9:05:56 AM
  • 77
    Awesome...CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! Some of my best memories from childhood were when I was on a bike....racing downstreets without a care in the world, wind whipping my hair back....those were the days! I've really been thinking about getting a bike again (it's been many, many years since I've ridden)....and I think you've convinced me to do it! I know I'll be wobbly for a while, but you inspired me!!!! - 8/17/2010   1:05:27 AM
  • SLIMFIT57
    76
    Congratulations!!! I use to love to ride my bike, as a child and as a young adult with my two children. Sadly, I have not been on a bike in over 15 yrs or more. I have fibromyalgia and have a hard time being active. I have wanted to buy a bike and try to ride for the last few years but keep putting it off. After reading your blog I am seriously thinking it is about time I do it. I am 53 yrs old and new to SP.
    Thanks for the motivation! Wishing you happy riding from now on.
    - 6/19/2010   9:27:17 AM
  • 75
    I am 30 and I haven't been on a bike since I was 6. Thank you for posting this and inspiring me to do better. I have the same lifestyle as you and it only makes sense to get back in the saddle! Congratulations. - 5/31/2010   9:07:54 AM
  • 74
    Congrats Stephanie! It is hard to learn anything as we get older, but it can be done...you are proof of that. I did learn to ride a bike as a kid and loved it, but when I became a teenager, I gradually stopped. After my husband died 6 years ago, I decided I needed an outlet to forget my troubles. For some reason that I can't even remember now, I decided to start riding again. They say once you learn to ride you never forget. Well your mind might not, but my 49 year old body sure did. I took quite a while to get my balance back and get over the fear of toppling over. I did and now I take long bike rides and last year I even started using clipless pedals...only one big crash! I think I will try the technique mentioned to try and get my 6 year old granddaughter to riding. She is having the same problems you did as a child. I know if she can master it, she will love it, but the fear has her stymied. - 5/31/2010   5:55:26 AM
  • 73
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am 23 years old and haven't learned to ride a bike. My boyfriend rides his bike all the time and always wants to share that hobby with me. I've always been afraid of people judging me and scared of my defeat. I'm really looking forward to learning, your story is my motivation. - 1/14/2010   12:11:15 AM
  • 72
    I remember when my dad took me and my brothers to the Schwinn dealer and we got to pick out our first bikes. We were so excited. I got a violet one with a white banana seat and the sparkly tassels on the handlebars. My brothers started riding as soon as we got home. I took a bit longer. I don't recall either of my parents trying to teach me. I do remember my grandfather running alongside holding the back of my bike. When he let go I promptly panicked and crashed into the tree that 'jumped' in front of me. My dad finally said if I didn't learn to ride by the end of summer he'd get rid of my bike. I was afraid of falling, but I loved my beautiful violet Schwinn. I somehow overcame my fear and learned to ride. Sadly, over the years I got away from riding. I'm finally getting back 'in the saddle', so to speak. - 1/8/2010   8:10:56 PM
  • 71
    My mom never learned to ride a bike. I think that is why she was so encouraging for me and my siblings to learn how when we were young. This story was an eye opener for me in that so many people don't know how to ride a bike. I will have to tell mom that she isn't alone in not knowing how to ride. Maybe she will be encouraged to try:) As far as a late bloomer, I was 18 yrs old before I learned to swim. Mom didn't know how to swim either and didn't encourage us to learn. I made sure that all four of my kids learned how to swim....and bike. - 10/21/2009   9:38:20 AM
  • 70
    Thanks for share your story! I'm 35 and I cant ride a bike either. My husband gave my a tricycle few years ago and I love it. I always tough that I'm a "little bit old" for lear how to ride a "normal bike" but your story is very inspiring. I'm promess myself to learn during this fall. Thanks again!! - 10/1/2009   6:13:31 AM
  • 69
    My husband and I recently bought bikes to try and get back into riding. It's been 20 years since we used to ride with the kids. When I was growing up my Mom used to ride with my sister and me. I remember some little kid asking her if she wasn't too old to ride a bicycle, lol. - 9/28/2009   10:50:35 AM
  • 68
    congrats! Its never too late to learn how to ride a bike or something else! I learned to ride a bike when I was 5 but I remember falling... a lot.... and since then I love it.... - 9/12/2009   1:25:59 PM
  • 67
    This is so funny, I just learned how to ride a bike last summer and I was 33. And I still don't really have the hang of it. Reading your story though has given me the inspiration to really do it. Thanks for the motivation! - 5/27/2009   10:27:46 AM
  • 66
    I used to ride a "road bike" for 7 years, I competed in triathlons & biathlons, plus cross-trained, and on many weekend days (Sat or Sun) I would get up at 4a and take a century ride or ultra century (150 m). However, in 2003 (August) I had a rock climbing accident and lost my right kidney, so I'm scared to get on my bike and ride, I'm afraid an injury could occur and I'd lose the use of my remaining kidney, plus I do not have health insurance.... Although on the flip-side my mind wants to ride and my body always looked great when I rode..... so I'm going to take the leap and try and ride this week..... - 5/25/2009   12:25:30 AM
  • 65
    Congratulations! I never had a bike as a kid and I learned to ride at 19. I hope this can motivate me to learn how to swim, too! - 5/22/2009   4:50:06 AM
  • GIANT-STEPS
    64
    I used to work in bike shops and I taught a number of adults how to ride a bike. I've seen some variations of my technique but to keep things simple I'll just tell what worked for me. I've never had a customer unable to ride after this.

    Prepare the bike for the first lesson by removing the pedals and lowering the seat enough that the rider can reach the ground flat footed with both feet. Let the rider scoot around for a while on the sidewalk and let them try lifting their feet when they get some speed.

    Next find a sidewalk with a gentle downgrade so they can coast for a while. Coasting down the hill gives the rider more confidence.

    Now put the pedals back on but keep the seat nice and low and let them coast down the same downgrade with their feet on the pedals; when they are ready they should try pedaling.

    Now raise the seat a bit but still leave it low enough that the rider can stop while still perched on the saddle. After a few successful starts and stops show the rider how to start standing over the top tube and getting on the saddle after they are moving. After this is accomplished raise the saddle a bit more. I usually send them on their way with the saddle still a bit low and recommend they raise it to a more efficient height after the rider is confident enough. - 5/15/2009   5:12:13 PM
  • 63
    Looks like I have no excuse left to learn how to swim at 48. Thanks for the inspiration. - 5/14/2009   12:48:05 PM
  • 62
    I was 21 before I learned to bike; I can ride a bike now, but hardly every do it. My excuse is that kids learn to be fearless on a bike before they know that it's dangerous, but as an adult, I can't get over my fear of hurting myself. But your story inspires me. You not only learned, you've made it a regular part of your life! After reading this, I'm thinking I just may ride to work tomorrow for Ride-to-Work day... or at least as far as my courage lasts, then walk the rest of the way. - 5/14/2009   10:15:16 AM
  • 61
    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story! There are many life lessons here...and to think I've been nervous about going to a spinning class! - 5/13/2009   10:22:11 AM
  • 60
    What a great story about courage and determination. So often we are afraid to admit we don't know something...once we can get past that hurdle often we find that others are willing to help us learn. - 4/21/2009   9:45:50 AM
  • 59
    Thank you so much for sharing your story, I feel I can do it too. Am 33 years old and one of my ultimate goal is to learn to ride a bike and learn to swim but getting caught up with 2 boys, being a teacher and going to school, not mentioning 206 pounds and 5'1. I found it hard to have time for lesson. I have the desire but not knowing where or who would have the patience to teach me set me back. I do want to want to buy a bike with trainig wheels even at this age but I haven't got the courage. If you have any tips to share am all ear. - 4/14/2009   9:49:51 AM
  • 58
    That is awesome. Even though I have ridden since I was 5 (thanks to a devoted father who was patient and taught me) I can relate to you. My mother never learned to ride until she was in her mid 50s (she grew up in the depression so never had the opportunity). At least you didn't wait that long! - 4/14/2009   8:46:15 AM
  • IMOLDERANDWISER
    57
    Way to go, Stephanie! What an terrific testimony.
    Years ago, while growing up with my four siblings, we shared one big bike that dad had built with parts from various bikes. We had to ride sideways on it, putting one leg under the bar (boys bike), because the bike was much too big. Of course, I fell more times than I care to remember, but I wanted to ride a bike! There were no helmets, nor protective gear so scapes and bruises were an everyday occurance.
    Last spring, at the age of 65, I decided I "needed" a bike to ride with my grandson. Although somewhat apprehensive, and wondering if I were having one of those "Senior Moments", I began extensive research on the internet, shopped local bike stores, and drove the salespeople crazy with my many questions. (Other than joining SparkPeople) the purchase of my Townie Electra was, by far, the best thing thing I have done for myself in half a century! I love, love, love riding! I usually ride on paved trails by myself. Sometimes I ride with others, including my 7 yr.old grandson, which he says is "Awesome!".
    Attitude and determination is everything.
    Whether you think you can, or can't...you're probably right! - 3/26/2009   5:15:56 PM
  • 56
    I'll be 26 this year and I can't ride a bike. I want to learn, though, because I can't drive a car either and I don't think I will soon. I just have to find someone who is willing to teach me. - 3/3/2009   4:47:57 PM
  • RASCALSMOMMA
    55
    I am going to be 46 this year and have never ridden--anything. A bike, a horse, a motorcycle; I can't even drive a car! First let me explain, I have CP and epilepsy and I also suffered from an overprotective father! LOL. I think what you accomplished says alot about your spirit..Your mtn bike should be named "True Grit" cuz that what you are made of. I am personally very proud of you and a little jealous too. But, one day, God's word promises us that all dis-abilities will cease and all abilities will shine! Looking forward to the day when you and I can ride our bikes together--ditching the training wheels! Laurie and Rascal - 2/27/2009   12:06:14 AM
  • 54
    I totally relate too. I think maybe I rode my bike 3 or 4 times before giving up on it when I was younger. My husband (then boyfriend) loved biking and my parents had gotten into it too. My senior year of college I signed up for a triathlon class. What was I thinking. I couldn't ride a bike. But it forced me to learn. I even raced with a secondhand road bike. - 2/18/2009   7:24:04 PM
  • 53
    Loved your story and could totally relate! I only learned how to ride a bike in my early 20's - maybe 22 - when I was on a college campus where everyone rode bikes everywhere and eventually I got sick of how long it was taking me to walk to all my classes. Reading this inspired me to get my bike fixed and start riding again! - 2/9/2009   3:54:33 PM
  • LORETTA1945
    52
    What a wonderful story. I guess you did'nt know how many people are unable to ride a bike. I am 63 and have never learned how to ride a bike. I want to learned maybe someday. - 2/7/2009   5:05:14 PM
  • 51
    Woo hoo! Congrats! - 2/5/2009   9:28:58 AM
  • MYNAIS
    50
    You know i am proud that you have accomplish this feat. I was thinking about trying to ride a bike again, but was scared, not now it is on. I am going to try it again. Keep up the good work. How long was it before your legs stop hurting? - 1/27/2009   9:50:23 AM
  • 49
    This blog made me think of how my sister and dad motivated me to learn to ride a bike: M&Ms. Everytime I got back on the bike they would give me an M&M. I guess I've always been food-oriented. ; ) - 1/8/2009   4:30:32 PM
  • 48
    Stepfanie:) Thanks for sharing your bike story. Would you believe I CAN'T rid a bike either? My Mom would not allow us, girls to learn for fear that we would lose our symbol of virginity!!! Yup! I grew up in a small city in India in the 60's. These days girls all over the world ( except in the middle east, Pakistan, etc.) ride a bike including India. How I wished to learn and could not find anyone to teach me, lucky you! Nor could I afford to buy a bike for me when we had 2 mouths to feed. How I wished we could bike in the trails when I was only able to hike. I am proud to state though, I made sure my own daughters learnt how to ride a bike along with all other persuits of theirs like swim, roller skate, ice-skate, ballet, tap dance, Indian dance, musical instruments, etc. My hubby has promised to buy me a bike and teach me when he retires. My thoughts are to buy a bicycle built for 2 and ride it together considering how I am afflicted with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension and unable to use as much lung power any more!

    Thanks for this very inspiring blog after my own heart. - 1/1/2009   5:46:14 PM
  • 47
    Congratulation! Your story is really a metaphor of life. So many of us go through life with training wheels story and keep them secretly tuck away from all that knows us. I really loved your story. It caused me to think of the things that I have been afraid to conquer. Thanks Stepfanie! - 12/11/2008   10:29:14 PM
  • 46
    What an awesome blog! Congratulations on finally getting up the nerve to ride a bike. I learned to ride when I was a kid, but went at least a decade or more without riding one. Just this year I got on one again, and while it IS true that you never forget, let's just say it does still take some reacquainting to feel comfortable. (The same with Rollerblading for me!) When I first learned to ride a bike, I did okay with the balancing, but was so excited and scared to be doing it that I forgot how to brake. I had one of those bikes where you had to pedal backwards to brake - do they still make them like that? I was doing well pedalling along, but was getting nervous and wanted to stop so I could celebrate, but was so distracted that I couldn't figure out how to stop. My solution? I just ran myself and my bike into a small tree. Hey, it worked, and when I fell, it was on soft grass and not asphalt. :) And this was back when kids didn't have helmets or pads to keep them safe if they fell!

    Great job on learning to ride, and thanks for sharing the story! - 11/25/2008   10:24:37 AM
  • 45
    Congratulations. It is truly NEVER TOO LATE TO GET FIT! - 11/20/2008   10:28:34 AM
  • 44
    Congrats to you for trying again. I love riding bikes. I just got a brand new one thanks to my partners parents - boy was that a surprise. We're actually planning a nice long ride this weekend and I'm super excited.

    Best advice I can give - go the extra step and buy a seat that is really comfortable for you and you'll want to ride it all the time. Might cost a little more $$ than you'd like, but it's TOTALLY worth it. - 11/14/2008   3:36:15 PM
  • 43
    And I thought that my little brother was the only one that didn't know how to ride a two-wheel bike. He is 17 and he doesn't know, but he doesn't have the desire to either. I think that it is great that you learned how to ride a bike, it can be lots of fun and it passes the time if you do it with a friend. I guess this means that you can do anything with the right drive and determination. - 11/11/2008   1:25:23 PM
  • 42
    This was a very inspiring article for me. I have tried many times to ride a bike and have never quite succeeded. I would love to ride for the fitness and fun of it. I guess at 42, it is not too late to start and explore a new horizon. - 11/8/2008   4:06:09 PM
  • 41
    I love these dailyspark blogs - and this is my absolute favorite so far! Way to go!! - 11/7/2008   9:58:45 AM
  • 40
    Great Blog, Stepfanie. You Rock! - 11/2/2008   2:28:18 PM
  • 39
    I finally did it! I didn't find a tricycle and I didn't use training wheels like I thought I would .... I was at the goodwill outlet and found a 1973 sears and roebuck free spirit, one speed, coaster cruiser and I've been bike riding three times! I still wobble a lot and I feel terrified when cars drive by me. More for their safety than mine... haha but it's so freeing and fun to be able to go for a ride bike after all these years! And my husband agrees that I found the perfect bike for me.

    On a side note, I didn't realize the seat could hurt my butt so much! haha - 10/16/2008   1:42:59 PM
  • CROWINGHEN
    38
    Hey I have a sweet little red bike that looks alot like yours! I love it!
    I'm 44 yrs old and every time I ride my bike I remember how fun it is-- like I'm a kid on my Schwinn with the banana seat and fake front shocks!
    How great that you could get over the obstacles and learn how to ride!!

    see ya on the trail! I'll be the other gal smilin and riding
    :) - 10/15/2008   10:40:24 AM
  • 37
    Thank you for sharing your story with us! I'm printing this out and keeping it on my wall to motivate myself :)
    - 10/12/2008   2:33:53 PM
  • SIMPLEJOYS
    36
    What a great story! I recently started riding a bike again after my husband bought me an "old school" cruiser bike for my birthday (also in May!). I love it! Thanks for sharing your personal triumph. Happy Trails! - 10/5/2008   6:42:06 PM
  • 35
    This is such a touching post. I literally got teary eyed. I have ALWAYS been terrified to ride a bike. I was always scared of anything that required me to have much balance. I didn't like climbing fences or jumping over things or any of the other things kids raised in the country do for fun. My mom bought us bikes not too long ago, but I think she sold them because I never got the courage to ride. Now that I've learned so many other things are possible that I thought weren't.. maybe I'll give biking another try. - 9/30/2008   10:22:23 PM
  • 34
    Kudos to all the new and would-be cyclists. I have ridden lots myself and have met some awesome people, made life-long friends by by biking. Here's a tip I've read about for teaching kids to ride that might be useful to adults as well. Lower the seat and remove the pedals; use your feet to propel the bike, and the hand breaks to stop. Do this until you're comfortable with coasting and turning, by which time you'll have a sense of balance on the bike. Do this exercise on a flat surface. Then put the pedals back on the bike and you should be set to go. Bike pedals require a special wrench, so you might want to ask a bike shop to remove your pedals for you. I hope this helps. Cycling is an awesome sport! - 9/29/2008   12:56:05 AM
  • 33
    Way to go!!! I finally learned to ride a bike with foot brakes at age 17 with the same balance problems. Later I tried to make the transition to handlebar brakes. Well, I ran in to hedges, trees, and almost got run over. I never could get the hang of handlebar brakes. Now at age 63, I figure I don't want to try bike riding again unless I get a bike with foot brakes!!! - 9/21/2008   11:40:57 AM
  • 32
    I don't think I'll ever be able to ride a bike properly. My balance is so bad (for no apparent reason other than bad ear cattarh) that I can't stand up on a moving bus in flat shoes without swaying violently and I can't wear stilleto heels at all (I fall over). If I get on a bike I'm fine until I want to turn... as soon as I put my hand out to signal I lose control and fall over (this is without training wheels obviously). I'd like to able to ride a bike but it scares me so much. - 9/17/2008   6:29:15 PM
  • CRICKETRO
    31
    WOW haven't been on a bike since I was a kid. My hubby cannot ride so i won't go alone on a trail :( - 9/16/2008   4:01:05 PM
  • 30
    Way to Go Stephanie! I share your joy and enthusiasm for learning how to ride a bike at 56 - after 3 decades of not being on one! 80 miles - WOW. That is remarkable. Congratulations on accomplishing that mission. - 9/14/2008   7:19:19 AM
  • TTMILTON
    29
    Way to go.

    I remember learning to ride a bike scared of falling (although i have many times and still do).
    When my son was 2 I brought him a bike for christmas hoping that by the time he was 3 he would be able to ride without training wheels No matter what i did i couldn't seem to get him to learn how to ride with the training wheels. Then when he was 4 I found out he has balance issues along with low muscle tone even though he seemed very strong. I got lucky in the way that a program was started and because of his condition he was able to get a 3-wheels cycle Which he has now learned to ride. Even though it was the 2 wheels I orginally hoped for I was just as proud to see him pedal down the road. To make things even better most kids think he has to coolest bike in our neighbor. My only regert it that my father never learned to ride a bike even though he taught he children how to ride. - 9/14/2008   7:09:30 AM

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