Monday, March 9, 2009

Pushing off, Coasting and Bonking

The title of this post refers to three new terms I learned on Saturday at my second cycling lesson. Whilst I was looking forward to it, I was also feeling a degree of trepidation....what if the previous week had been a false dawn? I started off pedal-less for a few minutes, until Pata thought I was balanced enough, and she called me over so that she could re-attach the pedals. I felt like saying, "I'm not really balancing well enough yet", but Pata was so enthusiastic and encouraging, that I just could not bring myself to say anything.
OK, so the pedals were attached, what now? The wise amongst us would simply say " raise your feet, balance on the pedals and start pedaling"! Pata, however, is no ordinary teacher - she is a guru. After telling me to raise the right pedal, her advice was to place only my right foot on the pedal, stick out my left foot, and only use one pedal. The physics of the thing seemed impossible, but it worked wonderfully. At a certain point, when I had a modicum of balance, it was the most natural feeling in the world to raise my left foot and pedal with that one too.
It was such a funny feeling - I could ride in a wavy sort of line but then had to stop as I had no idea how to corner. Pata just kept yelling out encouragements as I rode round and round the car park. I forced myself to relax, listened to her voice and found myself gently making a wide arc - or 'taking a corner'.
Yes me! It seemed like a magical experience: such a warm wonderful day with kids playing basketball in the nearby school yard, Pata telling me what a good job I was doing, and the manifest good fortune of staying on the bicycle and enjoying the small victory.
When I stopped, I found it difficult to gain the momentum to start - until Pata explained that you push off with your left leg. She also explained that going uphill required a bit more effort (ok I had forgotten about gravity etc). Once these secrets had been revealed, it was easier to start pedaling again. Furthermore, going uphill was a joy once I added a bit more 'power steering' to the pedals. As I came downhill, the bike suddenly seemed to go really fast. It was quite instinctive, but I stopped pedaling - and voilá, feet resting on the pedals, Pata informed me that I was now 'coasting'.
The next step was to try and change gears, but I could not quite get the hang of it. I could not fully understand the mechanics of big rings, little ring, medium sized rings, rings in the front and rings in the back. In the end, Pata took pity on me, and the gears will thankfully live to see to another day. However, the next item on the agenda was to try and cycle in a straight line.
Ha, you may say, how difficult can that be? Well let me tell you, very. Trying to cycle in a straight line, using the parking by lines as a guide, was not simple. I wiggled and wriggled, and wiggled some more, but managed to stay on the bike - though without completing my mission. Yes, the straight line will also live to fight with me another day.
At the end of the lesson, I felt fantastic. I actually managed to stay on a bike and cycle around for a bit - slowly mind you, but hey, two weeks ago I could not even sit on one. I felt encouraged enough to tell Pata that I actually had a city bike. Naturally I had never used it, but Stuart had bought it as a gift in Geneva a few years ago, hoping that I would become enthused by his woody jaunts, that I would want to join in. Alas, that day never dawned, and the bike just stood in the garage looking pretty.
I had not told Pata about the bike as I was scared - scared that she might tell me to develop some kind of relationship with it. Also, how could I tell her that I was scared of it?! Anyway, encouraged by my small successes on the bike, I told her that I would practice on my bike at home. And resolved to go out the very next day!

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