"I was so pleased and surprised to be cycling that I didn’t mind the stares. So what? I was cycling!"
It all started with a sore left thumb, five years ago. Cue about seven operations and a diagnosis of osteoarthritis later, I’ve been looking at taking up a good exercise that is gentle on my joints. I never learned to ride a bike, as my Mum was convinced she would find me under a lorry.
I was fortunate enough to be able to buy a bike using the Cycle to Work scheme. This is a government backed scheme which allows employers to loan cycles to employees as a tax-free benefit. Over a period of time, the employee can purchase the bicycle and save up to 42% on the original cost of the bike.
I bought my bike and was ready to go. With thanks to Twitter, I was advised to contact a charity called Lifecycle to find out about cycling lessons for absolute beginners. In conjunction with local Councils, they offer a free two-hour cycling lesson for everyone from school children to people like me.
The thought of riding a bike, quite frankly, terrifies me! I’m nervous of cyclists as a car driver. Riding a bike is something I’ve never really considered. I don’t have experience or understanding on how to ride a bike. However, it is a skill I never learned and felt it was time to master before reaching my 50th birthday in 2017. Most people are utterly confused that I never learned to ride a bike and I had to take some teasing with my ambition to learn.
So, as the days came closer to Thursday, I could feel my trepidation rising.
I was introduced to a lovely man called Paul. Paul was my teacher for my first ever cycling lesson! It was immediately obvious that I had no clue what to do with a bike. I explained that I had never learned the art of bike riding and was frightened of everything relating to the subject. Paul showed infinite patience with me, quietly explaining what I was doing incorrectly; this was everything from pushing the bike along the road, to getting on the bike, pushing off and using my brakes without falling off first. After an hour’s practice, Paul managed to get me to start cycling. The feeling of moving forwards on two wheels was a completely unique experience.
Paul then did the unthinkable. He took me out on the road — with cars both parked and moving. I have never been so out of my comfort zone! I got a few quizzical looks from passers-by as I screamed my way along, with Paul shouting encouragement to keep me going.
Needless to say, fear made me fall off the bike. But Paul told me I had every right to be on that road and not be scared. I will need a lot of practice to believe him. I am determined to get there and class myself as a ‘cyclist’. With practice, I can.