Learning to Fly…Again (Guest Post)

Steph2The saying “Once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget” Is true. The physical part of that saying is a given, and the one most people think of when they hear it, but what about the mental part? The freedom while riding a bike might be momentarily forgotten, but it comes flooding back once you mount up and ride, especially after a long absence.

I had forgotten how much fun riding a bike is. Much of my childhood was spent on a bike that had no gears. To break you peddled backwards. It had high rise handlebars and a banana seat. It remains to this day my favourite bike, even though it no longer exists. Many a weekend was spent racing down my grandparents laneway (they lived on a farm with a very long gravel drive) performing skids, doughnuts (or as complete as I could get them) and attempted wheelies. As you can imagine many a scraped knee and elbow were acquired and I wore those scabs like badges of pride. But it was the sensation of flying and the freedom it gave I enjoyed the most.

Currently, I’m in the process of restructuring parts of my life and want to start a fitness routine. I’m a chronic migraine sufferer and finally have them under control enough to have a somewhat regular life. (At this writing, however, I’ve just come through a six day migraine). I’m hoping some regular exercise will help with them.

It wasn’t until I started looking around recently and started noticing people cycling, that I started to seriously think about riding again. Inspired by a friend, I took the plunge and purchased a Diadora Modena city bike (ironically from a guy named Sam!)
With my recent purchase came the anticipation of the freedom of flying. The first couple of meters were wobbly, but then that familiar feeling returned. Oddly, another set of feelings sprang from flying – those of serenity and peace. There is a freedom like no other when riding a bike. The stress and concerns of everyday life disappear as the wind rushes over your face and coaxes your mind into a much better place. Call it the Zen of Cycling if you will.

For someone who used to game into the wee hours of the morning, I now look forward to the early morning and my ride around the neighbourhood before most people are awake – my secret flight before my day has to start (Although my parents happily report to me that they heard me leave and return). Eventually I would like to build up some distance and be able to ride to and from home and work. At least that is the goal I’m working on for next summer. (Building up some speed would make me very happy as well.)

My foray back into the world of cycling has also lead to an unexpected revelation – how complex but refined bicycles have become. I would spend time taking my old banana seat bike apart. I wanted to know how it worked, and as a result, I got pretty good at fixing and maintaining it. I would not even begin to dream of doing that with my current bike. Although, I don’t think I’ve lost all of my old touch as on my second ride out, while shifting gears, my chain jumped off the front set of gears. I did manage to get it back on the smallest gear. I took it back to the shop where they checked the bike over and thankfully nothing was wrong. The head technician was kind enough to show me not only how to shift gears properly, but what exactly happens to the chain while the gears are shifting, what cross-chain is (and why it’s bad) and why the chain can jump off the rails, sort of speak. What’s that old saying? Knowledge is power.

As I tiptoe into the cycling culture, I’m discovering a whole new set of terms and lingo (the linguist in me is performing cartwheels): cadence, crankshafts and derailleurs (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!) are terms new to me. Being the dedicated student I am I’ve thrown myself into research to educate myself. I hope the friend who inspired me is ready for a barrage of questions.

Of course, along with the terms comes a whole barrage of apps (why am I not surprised) such as cadence and gear calculators and ride trackers. I enjoy a ride tracker called Exclo. It’s for the Android platform, gives me my time, distance (I was surprised to find my “little rides” are actually 2 km – much further than I thought I could go), speed, calories (although that I’m not much interested in), target pace and interval distance. It will show me a map of the route I took that ride and let me save each one. It also keeps a running total of all of my rides as well as letting me access each individual one. Not bad for a free app.

Although my Diadora is one of the best riding bikes I’ve ever owned, I am already eyeing my next bicycle (a Cannondale Quick CX 3) but I have to work up to that one. (I have a feeling that a certain n+1 formula is going to get me into trouble!)

For now, though, I’m enjoying the serenity of my early morning flying time. I think the saying “Once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget” should be amended to “Once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget, and you’re welcome back anytime.”

I’m a 47 year old feminist who’s currently back in school to finish my degree in anthropology. I’m a geekette gamer who’s recently rediscovered the joy of cycling.  I’m also a chronic migraine sufferer who’s trying to steal back the first half of a stolen life.