If you didn't learn as a kid, riding a bike can be a tough skill to master.
If you didn't learn as a kid, riding a bike can be a tough skill to master. MNStudio

Life is just like riding a bike

Are you able to ride a bicycle? If you are then it's likely that you first learnt around four or five years old and probably had a few mishaps along the way but like learning to walk you got back on and gradually built your ability and confidence until it became second nature.

Meanwhile in 1960s England my mother, who had never learned to cycle, decided it was too dangerous for her daughters to learn on two wheelers where we lived (well, there was a bit of a hill to be fair) so we were had tricycles or three wheelers and were closely supervised, particularly on the street.

Unsurprisingly, none of us went on to be elite cyclists. In fact only my eldest sister persevered into her early 20s until being knocked off her bike and ending up with a broken arm. My mother's worst suspicions of the dangers of the bicycle were confirmed.

At the age of 16 or so, while on holiday with friends in Suffolk, I was invited to learn, using an old bike with dodgy brakes and one gear on a road bordered by prickly bushes and with numerous speed bumps.

What could possibly go wrong? After countless attempts, plenty of falls, swearing and frustration, I did eventually manage to stay upright for more than a couple of metres and grasped the basics but I was hardly a natural, so I left it at that until my early 20s ...

My partner at the time and another friend decided it was a good idea to cycle from London to Paris for charity and, oddly enough, so did I. It'll be fun, they said ...

I borrowed a friend's bike, which had reasonable brakes and three gears, and had a bit of a practice before heading off. Remarkably, as much for me as others, I made it through the London traffic to Paris where, taking my life in my handlebars, I took on the traffic around the Arc de Triomphe. And actually, it was fun!

Fast forward to a couple of months ago and I borrowed a bike from friends heading overseas. Here was an opportunity to fine- tune my skills (after nearly 40 years) and make use of the new walking and cycling path near us. So I'm back in the saddle, much to Nick's amusement who compared my skill level to that of a five-year-old.

I have now been out a few times, improving each time and learning to negotiate hazards (I'm one of them). Yes, I've had my first fall which was painful and embarrassing, but I got back on and persevered, with my dignity and bones still intact and I'm learning to find it fun again.

My recommendation? Learn the tough stuff when you're young; the longer you leave it the tougher and more painful it becomes.

Rowena Hardy is a facilitator, performance coach and partner of Minds Aligned: mindsaligned.com.au

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