Learning to Ride a Bike – at 32

I have a confession: I am 32 years old and love the idea of urban bike-riding and other alternative modes of transportation. And, I cannot – or at least could not until very recently – ride a bike.

A few years ago, I was lucky to participate in an renewal fellowship for Indiana’s youth development leaders. The fellowship provided a modest pot of “renewal funds”. One of the things I used my funds for was to buy a shiny new bike. And then, other than some limited stuttering starts in parking lots, it sat prettily in my garage (along with another lovely vintage bike that I received as a thoughtful gift when I was a teenager), biding time.

Parking Lot Rider
Photo credit: Ben Shine

Silly, right? There’s a great deal of anxiety that goes along with learning to ride as an adult. Add to that my own personal perfectionism and difficulty being not-good at almost anything in front of others, and you will get a red-faced, nervous learning experience. It’s different for an adult than it is for a kid. Plus, adult riders, if they are anything like me, are likely to carry along a certain amount of embarrassment related to never having learned this skill.

But I know I am not alone – there are many adults who would like to ride but, for whatever reason, haven’t gotten there. So, over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about the experience. So far, I’m in the quiet streets ridership phase. My posts will cover the process, some ideas I’ve gleaned from the web and my own experience, and also – when I get there – the tricky part of learning not only to ride, but learning to ride in an urban environment.

Let’s get this party started – what are your thoughts on bike-riding and/or learning new things or your own experiences with this topic?

Comments 10

  • I can very much relate to your experience – I’ve never been a great bike rider, but used to commute to my job that way many years ago when I lived in Wisconsin. The one day I decided not to wear my helmet, I was involved in an accident. Nothing too major, just momentarily knocked out with a grapefruit-sized welt on my forehead and a trip to the ER, but it has made me petrified to get back in the saddle (sort to speak) ever since. My goal is to get over that fear, and re-learn to ride.

    So, I’ll be sending you good vibes as you learn to ride – it’s not only a great, green way to get around, but incredibly fun and relaxing…even in traffic. You’ll do great, and be riding circles around the rest of us very soon, I’m sure!

  • I share your dislike of being not-good at anything, especially in front of others, so I’m cheering you on with a hearty, “Go, Kirsten! You can do it!”

  • Good for you Kirsten. Learning to ride a bike for me was a great feeling of freedom and independence.

  • Wait until you are speeding down the Monon Kirsten! 😉
    Keep up the good work. Glad to see you geting comfortable with a bike

    • I only look like I’m “getting comfortable” because that is a pretty long-distance shots. Up close, all the pictures show me making stress faces and/or gripping the handlebars like a maniac. But, I’ll get there, I think.

  • You go Kirsten! I didn’t learn to ride until I was 27. My motivation was I hated driving in Boston.

  • Way to go!! I bet it’s a very challenging obstacle to overcome. I loved riding bikes as a kid and was fine doing crazy things, but once I hit a certain age I stopped riding. When I was in college in Bloomington I brought a bike down to get to class and all the sudden I was deadly afraid of riding it. I was SO afraid of falling off as I went down hills or crashing into someone. It’s weird how that changed.
    It’s great that you’re riding a bike cause gas prices are crazy!

  • Hope to see you pedaling around the Village soon, Kirsten. Cycling is a life skill and it’s never too late to start. The photo of you reminds me of a great trick I used when I taught cycling years ago – go to a parking lot or other private paved spot and practice. If it is striped for parking, try to ride in a straight line. Once you’re comfortable keeping a straight line, add a degree of difficulty by looking over your shoulders while trying to hold the line. Using a private space to become familiar with your bike is very helpful so you know how well they work (or don’t!) But above all, play around, swoop in all directions, weave in an out and around and have fun!

  • Hi Kristen,

    I recommend the book Urban bikers’ tricks & tips : low-tech & no-tech ways to find, ride, & keep a bicycle by Dave Glowacz. It is full of good advice (and a little bit of easily identifiable bad advice) and was invaluable to me when I first starting riding in Atlanta.

    The library has a few copies available: http://sherloc.imcpl.org/?q=0965172813

  • hey, i know this hasn’t to do with learning how to bike and all but indy connect is taking input for a regional bike plan: http://www.indyconnect.org/bike_update.htm

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