Back in the Saddle

Mijn Fiets [Day 171/365]
You know the old adage “It’s like riding a bicycle”, meaning it’s something you don’t forget? Yeah, I may have proved that one wrong. I finally bought my very own bicycle today, but I’ve yet to ride it properly. I had G end up testing it out for me when I failed to get it going without almost riding it into a wall. It was lunchtime and there were tons of people around and I was fast running out of any ability to not be horribly embarrassed and mortified. Plus, I was worried about running over the mail delivery people nearby who were doing a good job at not laughing and pointing at me.

I was up by 5 a.m. this morning, albeit unintentionally. Maybe tomorrow morning I’ll get up early again — this time on purpose — and go practice when fewer people can see me wobbling all over the place. My memories of riding a bike and the reality of it were two drastically different things! I used to ride my bicycle for hours on end, practically flying on the wind. Unfortunately, that was 20+ years ago.

Still, I finally have a bike again and I’m sure it will come back to me eventually. Hopefully without anything getting broken! I’m thinking of naming my bike Sally after the song by The Phoenix Foundation (you can hear the song and the whole album at that link), partly because of the line “you look like Kodachrome, you’ve gone a little yellow”, in honor of my very first bike, which was a yellow one.

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15 thoughts on “Back in the Saddle

  1. First time I tried riding a bike in Holland it had been at least 8 years since I had last rid one. I was not familiar with the back peddle breaks and only realised there was no handle bar breaks when I wanted to stop. I slammed into a wall.

    • My first bike had the back pedal brakes — as does this one — so it’s not completely unfamiliar to me. Still, I found out today that I don’t necessarily remember to brake when I should.

  2. I can’t figure out how you got away without riding a bike the whole time you’ve lived here, but don’t worry…it will come back to you. I tried it for the first time since childhood when E took me to Schiermonnikoog island. Luckily it wasn’t crowded there because I was wobbling all over the place! It was indeed embarassing! It took me several months to become really comfortable in traffic, but after a while it just seemed to click. Cute bike, by the way!

    • Utrecht’s much smaller than Amsterdam, so it’s easy to walk anywhere. It’s basically a 10-15 minute walk from one side of town to the other. Still, once I get used to biking in traffic, I might finally hit up the tokos more often, since they’re on the other side of town. More okra!

  3. Oh no, poor you! I’ve been thinking of getting a bike again as well, also after a 20 year break. I’m glad to know there will probably be a re-learning curve, though. Keep at it, it’ll come back to you, I’m sure!

    • You should do it! Once I got on this morning with no one else around to make me nervous, it really did come back to me. Turning requires a bit more practice, but it was fun to be riding again.

  4. I went years and years and yeeeaarrrrs without riding a bike. I owned one but it collected dust :P

    Don’t worry about the wobbling, I had the same thing when I went looking for bikes. I remember we went to Megabike here in Rotterdam and they wanted me to test out a bike on the bike path. Oh SURE, put the little fat Canadian on a bike at lunch time on a busy city bike path. Wobbling would have been an improvement over whatever it was I was doing.

    Once you have a little breathing room and can build up a bit more speed you’ll find it is a lot easier. Well, to not wobble. I’m still waiting for it not to tire the shit out of me :P

    • G’s had a bike most of the time we’ve been here, but it’s got the cross bar and there was no way I was going to be trying to ride again and worry about trying to swing my leg over just to get on.

      I had meant to get an earlier start yesterday, but we didn’t get to the bike place until lunch time. Fortunately, the shop is on a corner, so when the sales guy suggested I take it out front to give it a try, I suggested the slightly less trafficked side street. Not that that turned out any better. Lots of people wandering around, not to mention a big speed bump that wasn’t helping matters any. Oh, and the dip from one of the drainage grates. Obstacles everywhere!

      It went much better this morning (at 6 a.m.) with no one else around. When I could go faster down a straight street, it was a lot of fun! I would have ridden longer, but it felt like I was sitting on concrete. I can’t wait for that to improve. ;)

  5. I feel your pain. I didn’t get my bike until I’d already been here almost two years, and at that point, it had been at least 15 years since I’d been on a bike (probably more). I was very wobbly and nervous. I highly recommend the getting-up-early-to-practice method. I did that a lot, and it was really helpful. I found that I improved pretty quickly when I didn’t feel the pressure of other people around me.

    Also, if your bike has more than one gear, try starting out in a high-ish gear. Mine’s a three-speed, and I found it MUCH easier to keep it in third gear when I was re-learning to ride. The bike felt a lot more stable than when it was in first.

    • The early morning practice session today really made a difference. Without an audience, I was able to get going right away. I’ve got the most basic of omafiets, so no gears to worry about one way or the other. Probably just as well. I did practice signaling my turns and that just about toppled me!

  6. Also remember that you need to get to know your bike and its quirks.

    Every time I’m on someone else’s bike it just feels weird. The brakes are different (less/more sensitive) or handbrakes vs. backpedal, the steering could be different due to the shape etc.

    You should be tall enough to be able to stay in the saddle and put your foot down. Oh and practice how to land on both feet in case of an emergency stop.

    The rest is indeed practice, practice and some more practice. :)

    • True. I remember how different it felt to ride a friend’s bike back in the day. At least this one is fairly simple, so I should hopefully get the feel for it soon. Working on braking and turning is my next big challenge now that I can at least get the thing going and keep it going in a straight line! I think I want to lower the seat a bit more, though. It’s much better than when I first tried it yesterday, but I think it’s still a tad bit too high, particularly if I need to stop suddenly.

      All in all, though, it was fun to be back on a bike.

  7. Yay!! So proud of you! You’ll get the hang of it soon enough. Too bad there aren’t any big empty parking lots around for you to practice in. There is a street behind my house that might be good…

    • Good ol’ parking lot practice. It was handy when I was learning to drive; I suspect it would be handy for relearning to ride. It’s a shame the Stadsschouwburg doesn’t have a proper parking lot. That would have been perfect. I think getting your your house would be practice in and of itself. ;)

  8. I went without a bike for a couple of years because off the cost, then bought one for 26 euro through a newspaper ad. It’s a 25 year old locomotief and I love it dearly, brouwn paint, rust, and all. I think it’s a necessity for running around town (although of questionable value when there’s ice on the cobblestones in winter).

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