This week, I finally learned how to ride a bike.
It only took about 8 years of swerves, falls, and tears before I came to this realization. My journey started when I was in elementary school. I picked out a sky blue, beautiful bike with thick wheels and shimmering decor. My mom and I took this bike to a nearby parking lot, and after a couple of stressful practice sessions I managed to pedal the length of the lot before getting a little too excited about my accomplishment and becoming unbalanced, suddenly being engulfed by the fear and frustration of controlling this vehicle.
Though I did eventually learn to stay on my bike for longer than a minute, I never fully felt comfortable. I did not trust in the bike, or myself, to keep going if I hit any sort of bump or had to tackle a gentle hill.
For a few years after my initial bike riding days, I forgot about the tedious process I had endured to gain the skill. My bike stayed stagnant in the basement, collecting dust and the occasional cat hair.
When it came time for me to mount a bike again this past week, the first thing I experienced was that same fear and self-doubt that stemmed from 10-year-old-me’s unsteady attempts. I clumsily swung my leg over the wheel, positioning my feet on the pedals and squeezing the handlebars so tight that my forearms ached. I pushed off, holding my hand over the brake, and started rolling.
I cannot say that the rest was the trip was easy pedaling, as I would have hoped. Instead, it was chock full of falling, awkward starts, awkward stops, grease everywhere, sweat, sore legs, an even sorer butt, and panic. But through all of the struggles came an unexpected revelation: I had managed to comfortably ride my bike.
I realized this at one of the most stressful points of the trip, when we were turning onto a large road. I was first in line, and when I saw the signal, I clambered back onto my bike and started pedaling as hard and fast as I could. And in that moment, leading the group with my heart racing from the motorbikes zooming past, I understood why some found this biking thing so appealing: it felt like I was flying. I was powerful, happy, and in control of this skill that I had tried for so long to fully master.
I wish I could say that after our trip, I am ready to tackle the Kaliurang mountain bike trails. I wish I could even say that I feel comfortable attempting to ride up the notorious hills of Pittsburgh. But if there is one thing for me to remember from this trip, it is to take on challenges one step at a time. Partially, if not fully, conquering my fear of biking is a huge step for me, one in which my resilience was tested time and time again. This is one of my first accomplishments in what will hopefully be a year full of many trials, mistakes, and maybe even a few successes. And all I can promise to do is take them on one pedal at a time.