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I Learned How to Ride a Bike as an Adult (and You Can Too)

Since COVID-19’s arrival to the U.S., the idea of riding a bus hasn’t been sitting well with me. I’d never considered myself a germaphobe until this year; things I loved to do, such as going to a movie theater or a concert, are unsettling to me now. My fears have also been directed towards my freshman college experience. For large universities like Penn State, the bussing system is practically unavoidable, especially for anyone with classes on the other side of campus. With my plans to dorm in the spring, the safest mode of transportation available is something that has brought a whirlwind of both fear and embarrassment into my life: the bicycle.

Growing up, I was so afraid of failure that when it came time to take my training wheels off, I learned how to ride a scooter instead. I had accepted that riding a bike was something that I couldn’t learn how to do, and I lost a fair amount of confidence in doing so. Since I am doing remote online learning and have more time on my hands, I decided to finally conquer my fear and put in the effort to learn. Here is how my journey went!

Day 1

The sky didn’t agree with my plans and decided to send some rain as discouragement. Luckily, I had a garage all to myself! I started out in an attempt to coast, with one foot on the pedal and the other reaching out for balance. The most notable issues with learning in a garage were the lack of space to get momentum and the obstacles at every turn. More time was spent trying to avoid my dad’s work tools than there was finding my center of gravity. This wasn’t a very productive day, but it helped me adjust and get a feel for balancing.

Day 2

For my first real opportunity to ride I went to the parking lot behind my highschool. The best place to practice is anywhere that is flat, isolated, and stretches out for a while. I found that having a long and flat area to work with is ideal for finding your balance and being able to pedal a farther distance. Originally I was going to go to the park, but I found that being alone boosted my confidence and let me make mistakes without having to worry about judgement.

Lo and behold, after about 15 minutes of falling over, I was able to complete my first stretch! I came to realize that if I turned my wheel in the direction in which I was leaning, my balance would restabilize. Once I learned the trick towards riding in a straight line, I pushed my luck and tried to do a figure eight, which turned out being a square with rounded corners. Although I still have a long way to go, I would call my second day a success.

Day 3

My focus for day 3 was to work on riding uphill and downhill. I have a hilly driveway, so I figured this would give me a good opportunity to give it a shot! Downhill wasn’t too bad, although it made me a tad nervous to go fast. Another issue was trying to get off of my bike on a slope; even if I got to a complete stop with my brakes, the wheels would start to coast whenever I took my feet off of the pedals, so I would end up hopping around trying not to crash. Uphill wasn’t the best experience either, because I couldn’t get enough momentum to efficiently push off. When striving to be good at something new, don’t expect everything to go perfectly! I made mistakes, and I am learning from them.

Day 4

SPOILER ALERT: I crashed. The wind was strong and ended up pushing me over. It wasn’t my ideal way to start the day, but I didn’t let it get me down! Thankfully, the rest of my practice went smoothly; as a matter of fact, I rode for my longest distance so far. Since my efforts with uphill and downhill didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped, I decided to stick with practicing at the high school since it is a flatter course. As a warm up, I rode in circles, and then completed a successful figure eight when I felt comfortable enough to attempt it. For the remainder of my practice I rode around the building, and then called it a day when the wind got too intense. 

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Results:

After only 4 days of training, I was able to overcome a challenge that had taunted me for years. It had gotten to a point where I felt like it was too late for me. I thought my efforts would be pointless, and that I would just give up in the long run. Little did I know that I would be able to live up to my goal after just 15 minutes of falling over. Thanks to these past four days, I will be able to ride my bike on campus without having to worry about being judged. My story is proof that no matter how old you are, it is never too late to take on a challenge.

Ava Kidd is a sophomore in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at PSU. She is double majoring in Public Relations and German. On weekends, you can find her either volunteering at the local cat rescue or solving sudoku puzzles!
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