Hi there, and happy Monday! I am off work today, and my plans include cleaning the apartment, going to a Crossfit class, buying a new crate for Brooks, and cooking up some meal prep for the week.
Yesterday, I did something I thought I was never going to do again. I rode a bike!
One summer when I was a kid, I spent almost every evening circling an empty parking lot, attempting to learn how to ride a bike. Where I grew up in Brooklyn, there wasn’t a whole lot of space to ride a bike, and the parking lot was the largest empty space we could find. According to my dad, I did eventually learn, but I was very shaky and didn’t ride a lot because of the aforementioned lack of space.
I tried to get on a bike sometime in college and promptly fell over. Many times. I thought I was the one person in the history of the world who had done the thing that couldn’t be done–I’d forgotten how to ride a bike.
The summer after my first year in law school, one of my best friends, Liz, tried to teach me to ride a bike in Central Park. I couldn’t ride more than a few feet without falling over. It was totally miserable. After that, I pretty much gave up. I figured that I didn’t need to know how to ride a bike. Why bother?
My mental health was really, really bad for a few years. My anxiety flared up during my last few years of college and intensified during law school, until my panic attacks were happening daily.
I’ve been in therapy for a little over a year now, and I am doing a whole lot better. Lately, I realized that my anxiety put a damper on a lot of what should have been fun experiences. For years, I did very few things that scared me or challenged me outside of finishing up law school. And when I did muster up the courage and energy to try something new, it was almost never fun because I spent the entire time in my head, counting down the minutes, hours, or days until it was over.
Now that my anxiety is under control, I want to do all the things that I was too scared to do when anxiety ran my life. I started small this weekend by riding a bike.
Pat and my older brother both offered to teach me to ride a bike. While it was super sweet of them to offer, I’d already had lessons from friends and family, so I decided to look for professional assistance. I was prepared to pay a fee, but Bike New York offers adult learn to bike classes free of charge!
Bike New York’s adult learn-to-ride class provides students with a bike, a helmet, and an instructor. My class took place in an empty playground. There were about ten people there and we had two instructors. They told us that we would probably learn how to ride a bike that day, but warned us that it wasn’t a guarantee and that we might need another class or two. After fitting us with properly sized helmets and bikes, the instructors promptly took the pedals off our bikes. Our first task was to “walk” back and forth on our bikes. Our seats were low to the ground, and we essentially just walked back and forth, straddling the bikes.
After walking back and forth a few times, we were taught to glide. Essentially, we pushed forward off our feet until we gained some speed and then picked up our feet and glided for as long as we could. At first, this was a little bit awkward. After a few rides across the park, it got pretty easy. At this point, it felt like riding a bike was sort of coming back to me. Because I could just put my feet back on the ground, I was able to glide with confidence.
The instructor was walking around the class and, once he saw that you were gliding with relative ease, he put the pedals back on your bike. Once the pedals were on my bike, the instructor told me to keep one foot on the pedal and use the other foot to push off and glide like I was doing before. I did that a couple of times back and forth and started trying to get my other leg onto a pedal. After a few tries, I got the hang of it and I was riding a bike!
The class was 2 hours long, so I got plenty of practice riding around the park, gliding down hills with my feet on the pedals, learning to brake, learning to turn, and going up and down hills. I was super proud of myself for learning a new skill! Check out the video in my Instagram post below to see my first day riding a bike!
PS After this video was taken, the instructor came over to me and showed me how to adjust my seat so my knees weren’t bent the whole time, hah.
If you don’t know how to ride a bike and you live in the NYC area, I definitely recommend checking out Bike New York. They also offer classes teaching you to ride your bike in the street, how to commute using a bike, bike maintenance, and more. Bike New York aims to increase ridership in New York, so they have a lot of classes available! If you aren’t a beginner, Bike New York also offers events for experienced riders.
Even if you don’t live in New York, learning to balance by gliding on the bike with your seat low and the pedals off the bike seems to be a really great way to learn! Almost everyone in my class was able to ride a bike, even though some people had never even tried to ride a bike before.
I definitely know how I’ll be teaching my kids to ride a bike when that time comes. In the meantime, I am super excited to be able to rent a bike when I travel to bike-friendly cities and rent a bike to ride on some of the bike paths in New Jersey!
Do you know how to ride a bike?