Inspiring Stories: Ditching the Training Wheels, at 26


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

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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    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
  • 28
    Way to go!! Just shows you can always learn if you really want to. Good job, and thanks for inspiring others! - 9/11/2008   9:19:56 AM
  • 27
    Congratulations, did it. See what good friends encouraging & supporting you can do ? - 9/10/2008   10:52:55 AM
  • 26
    Congratulations! - 9/9/2008   9:49:36 PM
  • 25
    At 28, I don't know how to ride. a bike, although the exercise bike is my main source of cardio. You have given me hope that I too can learn to ride and get over the fear of making a fool of myself or hurting myself. Thanks for posting this! - 9/5/2008   1:26:19 PM
  • 24
    Hi Stephanie,
    I'm so proud of you! You looked your fear in the face and denied it's power over you. Congratulations on overcoming and embracing cycling. Your story will continue to be an inspiration for many!
    Best wishes for many more miles...
    Audri - 9/4/2008   10:21:00 AM
  • 23
    This gives me hope. When I was 7, I fell off my bike, (it was purple and sparkled), I flew up over the handle bars, and landed on my face! We spent the entire night in the E.R. having rocks removed from my face and in my mouth, my hands and arms were a mess too. After recieving a ton of stitches, I was allowed to go home. Problem was, I couldn't open my mouth and eat "real" food for like a week, I had to suck it through a straw! I eventually healed on the outside, but inside I was terrified! My parents continued to buy me new bikes, but I couldn't move past my fear. At the age of 30,my fiance encouraged me to try riding...which ment I again had to waste money on a bike. I would try to ride, white knuckles gripping the handle bars, sweat dripping from my brow, and a sickening feeling inside. I could only handle it for a few minutes, before I had to stop. My kids don't understand how I feel, and tease me over not being able to ride,.. but I can ride,.. I'm just terrified! And to think I tought both of my children to ride bikes, even though I can't. I still have the desire to go for a senic bike ride (there are trails everywhere) with my family and share that experience, but fear overcomes me. Yet I think with turning 40, in February, I may buy myself a new bike and finally get over this. My old man bikes, alot (he is entering a short road race this month), and so do my children. And I'm determined to join them on their adventures! Thank you for sharing! I'm gonna start looking at bikes! - 9/4/2008   8:58:42 AM
  • 22
    This story really speaks to me. My husband is currently wanting us to get bikes for exercising. We tried it a couple of years ago but my balance was horrible, I felt insecure and in danger. My butt was huge and I hated traffic watching me. So I told him I would get a try-cycle. But they are out of our price range. So I said fine, I will get a bike with training wheels and ride that way for a while. I am really scared. He keeps laughing at me saying I am silly. He does this since I am 34 years old! But I figure whatever it takes to ride. So it is nice to feel that I am not the only one out there. But I am not sure I am as brave as you are since I still want my training wheels. haha. We did find a nice trail that would be good to learn on. No traffic and good terrain. But I don't know. Thanks for sharing this! - 8/30/2008   3:13:18 PM
  • 21
    I'm 38 years old and still don't know how to ride a bike. My coworker says she will teach me starting next month so wish me luck. - 8/28/2008   9:32:05 PM
  • 20
    you go girl, what an inspiring story. I can ride a bike but not that well. I've been thinking about getting a bike and now I just might do it. Thanks for your story. - 8/28/2008   7:16:16 PM
  • 19
    Good for you! My stepdaughter just learned how to ride a bike and she's almost 18 years old. She was always afraid of riding a bike but when my 6 year old son got rid of his training wheels this summer, he challenged his sister to learn how to ride a bike with him. She actually took on the challenge and she did it! - 8/27/2008   6:16:05 PM
  • DIVEGIRL94566
    Woo Hoo!!!! There are others out there like me!!!!

    Growing up I lived in the city and my mother had horrible visions of my sister or I getting run off the road by a car so, we never were allowed to ride. It wasn't until I went on vacation 4 years ago and had the opportunity to ride in a foreign country. I was with a group of friends and it was so embarrassing that I was the only person they knew that was bicycle challenged. At 39 and determined not to let my disability get the best of me, I hopped on the bike and shakily made my way through the ride. Once I returned home my boyfriend bought me a bike a short time later and I have been riding ever since!
    - 8/26/2008   6:59:01 PM
  • 17
    Good for you! I spent most of my childhood riding bikes. That was my mode of transportation when I was old enough to go places on my own but too young to drive.
    - 8/26/2008   7:16:33 AM
  • 16
    I would love to ride again. One phobia I need to get over. I was hit by a car when I was riding my bike at 12. I was very lucky to have landed on grass and was told otherwise I would've been seriosuly injured. And this Summer the boyfriend of a friend's daughter was hit and killed riding his bike.
    Right now a guy friend is out cycling and I would love to be able to without feeling fearful some dumb@ss will smush me in their car.
    If anyone knows great places to ride other than parks in Philly let me know. - 8/23/2008   11:44:21 AM
  • MTP0910
    There is hope for my soon to be 17 year-old son yet! - 8/20/2008   11:49:23 AM
  • 14
    Woohoo! (we need emoticons, lol) Maybe I will try to get on waterskis again! - 8/20/2008   9:57:11 AM
    Your story is inspiring. Thanks for sharing it.

    I was the third kid in line in my family and I have never experienced that thrill of getting a shiny, new bike. I was allowed to use my older sister's bike when she felt too grown up to ride a bike, but the thing was in really sad shape. I never had training wheels or had anybody running along behind me keeping me balanced. I eventually learned to ride (sort of), but could never seem to keep the bike in working condition.

    When I became a parent, I made sure my kids got new bikes of their own and that they learned how to ride. I got a vicarious thrill when I saw them ride their bikes - even when my son scared me half to death with his extreme bike tricks! LOL

    I have a medical condition that interferes with my balance, so I had put aside the idea of taking up bicycling again. Then I realized that didn't have to stop me. So, the first item on my Christmas wish list this year is an adult recumbent tricycle. I'm trying hard to be a very good little girl so that Santa will finally, at my ripe old age, put a shiny new bike under the tree for me.

    Having read your story, I'm more determined than ever to make that dream become a reality.

    Thanks!!! - 8/20/2008   7:27:01 AM
  • 12
    Wooo! You GO girl!!!! Not only were you brave enough to get back on a bike and try again, but you also shared it with the world! =o) Who knows how many people will get that glimmer of inspiration from you? That extra nudge to do what they felt was impossible... you're wonderful!

    Sparkle on, Stepfanie! - 8/20/2008   12:31:23 AM
    Congratulations on the 80 mile bike trip!!!! That would be a challenge even for a more experienced biker..Well done!! - 8/19/2008   10:24:45 PM
  • 10
    Hope you're wearing a helmet! - 8/19/2008   3:53:23 PM
  • 9
    Congratulations to you on your accomplishment and thanks for sharing your inspiring story. It's amazing what one can do when they are truly motivated or inspired. - 8/19/2008   10:37:32 AM
  • 8
    Thanks for sharing your story. Although I learned how to ride a bike when I was younger, I never made the transition from children's bike to adult bike using the brakes on the handle bars. I would love to go biking as part of my cross-training but have fears of flying off the bike. My friend keeps on encouraging me reminding me that a year ago I said I wasn't a runner and now I've run 1/2 marathon so I can learn to ride an adult bike. I guess we'll see. Great job on the 80 miles!! - 8/19/2008   9:59:33 AM
    This is so inspiring! One of my goals for the future is to learn how to ride a bike--or at least give it a solid try--and I'm 33. - 8/18/2008   7:32:12 PM
  • 6
    Great Job,, You inspire me to give it a try at my age. I'm 50,, not been on a bike in 32 yrs. Hubby just bought me one and I'm scared of falling too... One day at a time.. Thanks, - 8/18/2008   4:24:58 PM
  • 5
    Congrats on beating the balance barrier, I had a tricycle too and my uncle took off one wheel and then the other. I couldn't ride it without at least one of the training wheels, so that's how I did for a long time. Then I won a 10 speed bicycle through a cereal ( that got stolen. ) and my granddad helped me with it. He told me to get on, I did so, he pushed me for about 4 feet a, then he let it go and told me to pedal - turned around and walked in. I learned in that very quick moment and that's the method I used to teach both of my best friends to ride their two wheeled bicycles.
    - 8/18/2008   2:47:21 PM
  • 4
    When I fall I get right back up and try again LOL - 8/18/2008   11:00:37 AM
  • 3
    Thank you so much for sharing! I'm another adult who has never learned how to ride a bike. I've been too ashamed & afraid to seek out lessons. You've given me quite a bit of inspiration(and made me feel like less of an alien!) So perhaps I'll venture out sometime to find a kind soul who'll teach me! - 8/16/2008   12:31:19 PM
    This was great ~ I just got my bike out last week. I realized why I didn't ride it much when we bought it about 6 years ago...the seat is not to friendly on the behind. But, I rode it the first time, worried about making a fool out of myself. Well, I did just fine ~ no mishaps. The family went on a bike trail yesterday and had a great time!! - 8/16/2008   9:34:14 AM
  • 1
    Wow, pretty cool that you took the time to learn how to ride (after so many years). But don't worry about falling (except that it hurts), b/c I've been riding my bike for years and I still fall (cars on the street, rocks on the trail or other obstacles can be a little tricky :). - 8/14/2008   3:53:18 PM

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