The Bicycle Virgin
Tales in pedaling
By Christie Chisholm
The response usually goes something like this: “Wait. How did you not learn how to ride a bike until now?” At which point I realize it’s not all that easy to explain.
I’m 23 years old. Before two Wednesdays ago, I had never successfully ridden a bicycle, although I had occasionally tried to sit on one. I was a bicycle virgin—and there I was, losing it in a parking lot off Central on a shady afternoon. Sort of gives you shivers.
I was a timid child; always cowering behind my parent’s knees at dinner parties when all the other kids were playing, usually only gaining enough confidence to talk to another 5-year-old 10 minutes before leaving. I never learned to rollerblade, or ski, or snowboard. I did briefly dabble in roller- and ice-skating, but found it too high-stress to continue. In middle school, I conquered my fears long enough to learn to skateboard—it was worth it to be cool.
But I never learned how to ride a bicycle. Sure, my parents wanted me to. Sure, my father bought me a cute little pink bike with rainbow streamers and a yellow foam radio that velcroed onto the handlebars, complete with tiny pink training wheels. But those training wheels never came off. I wobbled on them for a while and then realized I would eventually have to learn how to go downhill on that cute little pink bike. I’m not sure I ever got on that thing again. Pity, really.
That was age 9. After that, the whole idea lost its appeal. Why did I need to ride a bike when I could safely walk, or hike, or skip? No need for wheels, right?
So, in other words, I was a bit of a loser. But not anymore.
A couple weeks ago our beloved Music and Food Editor Laura Marrich volunteered her bicycle and her time to my cause. She and her boyfriend accompanied me to a neighborhood parking lot—and my lessons began. They both took turns holding the seat of the bike while I tried to pedal along, stopping every five feet out of fear I would tip over. Eventually, I’d pedal longer and they’d pretend to keep holding on. When I realized they were lying, I, like every good 6-year-old, realized I was actually bicycling. Then I started on my own, still stopping every few feet, then gaining courage to look past the front tire, then doing loops and lopsided figure-eights.
Do you know how long it took? Twenty minutes. I waited 23 years, and it took me 20 minutes to learn how to ride a bicycle. It’s ridiculous, the things we avoid for no reason.
Now folks around the office are getting a kick out of my newfound hobby. I freakin’ love bicycles. Laura loaned me her bike until I can get my own (which I’ll hopefully have by the time you’re reading this). I’m riding it to the office every day (I’m finally sidewalk-ready, but still not street-ready). I’m practicing in the evenings.
The moral of this story? Kids, don’t wait until you’re out of college to learn how to ride a bike—it’s probably very useful while you’re in college. Also, Albuquerque happens to be a wonderful place to ride a bike, so if yours is sitting in your closet or garage, dust it off, fix it up, and get on that thing.
I love bicycles.
alt-J at Cottonwood 16
Russell James Pyle • folk, singer-songwriter at Marble Brewery Westside Tap Room
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