Easy Rider

I finally learn to ride a bike

By Dan Forward


o we’re friends, right? I can trust you. I know I can. Because you never tell anyone about what I tell you in this column. That’s why you’re the only one who reads it. Yeah, of course I can trust you. Good. Because I’m going to let you in on a heretofore closely guarded secret. And even though I totally do trust you and know you would never betray me, I guess I should mention that I did take out a little insurance policy, which is to say, if you let this secret out, I swear I won’t write about anything else beside running and hating bars for the next year and I’ll make you read all of it.

So, okay. I can’t ride a bike. I never learned how. I’m really not to blame. I don’t want to point to which parental figure from my tragically limited childhood is at fault for this massive failure, but let’s just say it wasn’t the Nintendo 64. So I guess, by process of elimination, the special collector’s edition DVD of Brendan Fraser’s masterwork The Mummy owes me a lot of back taxes in the form of teaching life lessons to the kid it helped raise.

You probably always took your pedaling skills for granted, but you shouldn’t have. “Want to bike to get ice cream?” or, “Want to bike to the park?” or, “Want bike to,” ugh, I don’t even know, “to the bike store?” Do people bike to the bike store? Whatever. These innocuous questions were always painfully awkward for me. I had to come up with excuses, like, “Oh, darn! I would, but I’m a Scientologist, so, obviously, not an option,” or, “Sorry, I never drink and ride,” or else I had to knock the person out with an upside-down dragon punch before he could discover my secret.

Eventually people stopped inviting me on rides. I replaced my old parents with new ones, Xbox 360 and Jim Caviezel’s greatest achievement, The Count of Monte Cristo, and didn’t give a thought for many years to balancing on two wheels and propelling myself forward. High school and college were peaceful times, but biking, like fanny packs and buying stocks on margin, made a triumphant return to our collective social radar, and my reputation was again in peril.

Fortunately, my girlfriend Sara decided to give me the greatest gift of all recently-knowledge-and rented a bike for me to learn on. Maybe as a small, slightly evil repayment to herself, though, she chose a rental place right on the waterfront, one of the more crowded parts of Boston, especially in summer, when this happened. She also had the bike fitted for her height. (Picture the height of a small child’s younger sibling). Was this necessary to conceal from the bike rental people that it was my first time on a big-kid’s bicycle? Or a calculated ploy to make it look to all observers like I’d stolen yet couldn’t master the transportation of a toddler? You decide. Either way, if I was going to be enjoying some vacation time away soon, and looking to visit a website such as https://pelicancruiser.com/bike-rentals/ to hire a bike in a place where bike rentals are in abundance due to the lovely scenery and trails, then I thought I better learn how to actually ride a bike properly first!

Anyway, we started going up and down the Greenway, one rotation of the tires at time. Bike riding doesn’t look hard. “And it’s not,” you say. Shut up. It is for some people. I kept missing the pedals with my feet and my jeans were too tight. But it was fine until other people started to get involved. A taxi pulled up and the cabbie stuck his head out the window and smiled at me for a while. When I accidentally made eye contact with him he said gently, almost lovingly, “Are you learning? Is it your first time?” I said yes, which caused him to nod, grin, and sit back slowly into his seat to soak in my humiliation and the nascent, ambiguous sexual tension that was mostly his fault.

Another less disturbing but more annoying person came up to me assuming that the bike was broken because why else in the whole entire world would someone be struggling with a bike at 25 years old, and told me that I probably had it in the wrong gear. I would have run him over later if I’d been capable of building up any significant amount of speed. Still, he was better than the skateboarding group, the various tourists, and the one security guard who all averted their eyes out of pity, which I did not ask for and did not need.

Maybe the worst of it was Sara’s unfailing encouragement and calm guidance. Oh, man. I couldn’t stand it. She was so nice and supportive and looking pretty hot that day, too, if you were wondering, and she can ride a bike no problem, and it was just way too much. It’s the same reason I can’t play Words With Friends with her. Because I hate when I’m bad at something. I guess-technically-that doesn’t have anything to do with her. Just, if you ever see me or any other seven-year-old out trying to master bicycling, there are a few things that you really shouldn’t do. Don’t smile sympathetically. Don’t try to help. Don’t be creepy. Don’t do anything. Simply stand very still until we’ve walk-biked past you, and then get on with your day so that we can do the same. Thanks.

Read bicycling secrets for people who actually know how to ride bicycles.

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