It seems right to start at the beginning – where it all started, with my first bike. I remember my first bike well: it was white with silver and red accents, and a dropped bar, and stabilisers and a chain guard, and it looked like freedom.
I remember my dad helping me learn to ride it; teaching me the things it is impossible to teach and you really have to learn by making mistakes – how to balance, how to lean into the direction you want to travel, how to coordinate pedalling and steering and balance and looking behind you for traffic and waving your arm when you want to turn or stop…
I kept the stabilisers on for quite a while, I seem to remember. I wasn’t ready to balance by myself just yet. And it felt like when we took them off, I had to learn how to ride all over again. Nowadays it’s all the rage to give children balance bikes (without stabilisers or pedals) so they learn to balance first and add the pedalling later, which seems to make sense to me as balancing is the harder skill.
We started in the garden and then when there wasn’t enough space in the garden we would go out into the garage road behind the house and I would whiz up and down – it felt like I was going really fast! – and dad would be there running along beside me reminding me to pedal or sometimes to stop before I hit something.
But once I could ride I could explore! My friends all had bikes too, and although I wasn’t allowed far from the house as I was only little, there was plenty to discover around our own quiet road, and we would cycle around feeling fast and free and powerful, and race our bikes down the
hill slight incline of the road – especially fun after they resurfaced it and it was all smooth.
I didn’t realise it then, but those early days of riding my little white bike with stabilisers would start a long love of cycling, and a sense of freedom whenever I get on a bike.