Wheels are not my friends. They do wonderful things for other people and provide numerous helpful services. But we do not get along. Oh, we’ve tried to make it work, but I just kept getting hurt.
Every attempt to go roller skating led to me collapsed on top of one twisted ankle or another. A trip around the go-kart track ended with tears, an injured foot and a missing shoe. My elementary school had piles of old tires as playground equipment and I was always falling into them. I even stub my toe when pushing a grocery cart.
And so I’ve never ridden a bicycle. Never experienced the freedom of taking off on my bike to ride with friends down cheery tree-lined suburban streets. Never rode a tandem bike with a beau around a riverfront park. Never entertained fantasies of competing in the Tour de France. Never had a legitimate excuse for wearing spandex shorts in public…
Like anything worth doing, riding a bike requires time, practice and patience. No one in my household had experience in bike riding. The only bicycle we owned was a stationary exercise bike in my mother’s bedroom. I would occasionally play on it while watching Perfect Strangers on TGIF. Because my feet couldn’t reach the pedals, playing really meant honking the horn at Balki and Cousin Larry until my sister would yell for me to quit it.
Unlike a car or pony or personal chauffeur, we probably could’ve afforded a cheap, used, beat up old bike for me to crash into a tree. Living just below the poverty line in the U.S. did mean that we couldn’t afford the hospital bills if I’d crashed myself into a tree. And I wasn’t the most graceful child. Even with three seasons of dance classes, I was pudgy and clumsy. I could bruise simply by sitting down.
But looking back, I didn’t yearn after that little pink bicycle with the tassles and the basket with flower decals. It was never on my Christmas wish list. Instead, I dreamed of a limousine with a hot tub in the back after I saw it in Phil Collins’ video for Take Me Home. Surely I couldn’t get hurt in that!
When my family moved to the outskirts of a smaller, more rural town, bike riding became even less of a possibility. Living right off a highway meant the streets weren’t really child-friendly. Or pedestrian-friendly. Unless you liked trying to cheat death by dodging log trucks.
I suppose it’s not too late to learn. I could go into a local bike shop and buy some cheap, beat up old thing—plus all the silly safety accessories that one needs these days. After suffering through a hilarious montage of bike accidents, I could be feeling the wind in my hair and bugs in my teeth. And, finally, I would have an excuse to wear that spandex bodysuit.