I feel rather envious of the people who never come to the realization that nostalgia can be a dangerous thing.
For most of my childhood, mid-year school holidays involved endless hours spent on my bicycle (a purple Chopper with orange lettering, a banana seat, basket AND tassels) zipping back and forth on the 4-block stretch that was my street. Being profoundly chicken-hearted even back then, I rarely ventured beyond the confines of that quiet strip, and I look back in amazement at how I was able to while away so much time in so small a place. I remember the warm sun on my shoulders, and the wind whipping through my hair, and having not a care in the world.
So, when the long-awaited Citibike scheme finally came to fruition in New York, I was among the very first to sign up, eager to relive those carefree days of my childhood. Last weekend, I had my first opportunity to hop on one of these blue behemoths, and let's just say things didn't go quite as planned.
I had envisioned myself coasting along Brooklyn streets, enjoying the scenery and garnering looks of admiration from pedestrians. Instead, I discovered that after 30+ years out of the saddle, I had absolutely no idea how to ride a bike.
I wasn't completely unprepared for this, as I'd had the fairly recent experience of failing to stay upright on a very rickety rental bike down the Jersey Shore. I blamed the problem on the bike at the time, and settled for an equally rickety three-wheeler, even though I knew, deep down, that my cycling abilities had gone the way of my youth.
However, spurred on by my enthusiastic sweetheart (and the thought that I had spent $100 on annual membership) I resolved to give the whole cycling thing another try. We found ourselves a relatively quiet side street and engaged in a session of 'Cycling 101'. I won't bore you with the details, but I will say there were attempts, failures, adjustments, readjustments, words of encouragement, expletives and in the end, a tiny bit of progress. I eventually managed to stay upright and in a somewhat straight line for about 30 feet. And since my free ride time was about to expire at that point, we declared the lesson a moderate success.
I have no doubt there will be many more lessons before I'm capable of navigating a busy bike path in a responsible manner, and I won't even dare to speculate about riding in NYC traffic, but I will most definitely persevere. One way or another, I'll get back in the saddle!