Get Back Up on That Horse, er, Bike

I don’t know how to ride a bike.

No, I am not six. Can’t you tell by my fancy elocution and shit?

I am thirty-smoosh-years-old and I do not know how to ride a bike. This causes endless mirth and/or frustration in my bike-loving husband.

How did this shameful lack of ability come to be? ‘Tis a sad tale, to be sure.  Girl facing away on her bike.When I was a mere youth, I was given a Strawberry Shortcake bike. It featured a little basket, fancy-dancy shiny streamers, and a whole lotta pink. It also featured training wheels.

I rode it all over my yard. All the time! I loved it. Then it got old, because the training wheels were still on. I begged my dad to take them off. He said no. For some reason, he’d decided that until I rode it without using the wheels at all (as in no wobble, I guess), he would not take them off. Well, that kinda never happened. Because they were there. Always there. Little pink and white crutches. After a while, I grew bored and put the bike down.

No one took the training wheels off. And I still do not know how to ride a bike.

After a while, I became a little afraid of it. Some friends would try and force me on their bikes, but seeing as I’m five feet tall (with stupidly short legs), they would all be too big for me and just freak me out more. No one really wanted to take the real time to teach me because I was old enough to just know, you know? It was wretched! So I became ashamed.

It is at this point in my ridiculous story that you can mock me. Go ahead. I’ve heard it all.

My dad really regrets the bike thing now. I don’t think he realized how very much the bike thing warped me. But it really did. I never bought one for myself… because I don’t know how to ride one. The idea of being pushed into LA traffic now is terrifying, and I mean in a car!

My husband and I took a trip to Europe for our tenth wedding anniversary recently. The first day in London, we went to Hyde Park. The air snapped with cool fall freshness, the ducks waddled in the water, and dapper Dans on horses breezed through the dirt lanes. So pretty. So relaxing. Until my husband got a bright idea.

“Let’s rent bikes!”



Why would anyone ruin a perfectly nice park with a terrifying bike ride?!

I put on a brave face. After all, I was a fully fledged adult. Sure, I still sleep with my childhood blankie (DON’T JUDGE ME), but I could perform an activity that five-year-olds master. Sure.

So we put our pound coins in the slot and rented bikes.

And then I freaked out.

OMG it was high. And heavy. And too big for me! EVERYDAY LEISURE ACTIVITIES — noooooooooooooooo!

But after a few freaky minutes in which I really wanted that blankie (DON’T JUDGE ME), my husband began slowly teaching me how exactly to ride a bike. How to start with the pedals. How to put my foot down and stop, even though the horrid, wheeled beast really was too tall for me. (One size fits all my ass.) And then my thirty-smoosh-year-old husband began running with me, holding the handle bars, and helping me pedal a bike.

That is love. Maybe a little desperation. But mostly love.

We didn’t get many tries in. The sun soon set winsomely over the romantic/pathetic scene. He said he was proud of me. It meant a lot. I posed for a picture next to the vanquished collection of spokes and pedals.

I won’t say that I finally know how to ride a bike. He never actually took his hands off the handlebars before it got dark. But I have asked for a bike for Christmas. A silly, vintagey-looking piece of froth with a basket. Streamers if I can get them. And one of these days, I’ll be able to go to the beach with my best guy and accomplish the bike thing.

What’s the point of this? Besides all of you feeling better about yourselves through my piteous shortcomings? I guess the point is to not give up. To be proud in your small victories even when someone else is still holding the handlebars. To be nice to yourself. To remember that you can always learn a new trick, or pick up an old one. It’s like riding a bicycle, after all.

By Lucy Woodhull

Lucy Woodhull is a novelist, humorist, parodist, and all-around geek. Her new venture is THE SHITTIEST PRINCESS, a series of un-fair-y tales right here on Persephone. You can check out her sexy, fun romantic comedies at

26 replies on “Get Back Up on That Horse, er, Bike”

I can ride a bike (and do all the time) but I cannot swim. In Canada when I would have been learning how to swim (around age 5-10), our lessons were run by the red cross, and the levels/grades were sorted into colours. (When you passed a level you got a badge of that colour). I started yellow (aka level 1) when I was 5  and I passed it at age 10. The only thing you have to do to pass yellow/level one is float on your back and stick your face in the water and blow bubbles.  I retired from my swimming career shortly after….and now avoid swimming like the plague.

At 26 I can neither ride a bike nor drive a car. You’re not alone!

Eventually I will have to accept the inevitability of having to cope with some form of wheeled transport, but not yet. Every year I tell myself that ‘next year’ I’ll learn to drive… Until then, I’m a pedestrian and public transport girl all the way.

I am also thirty-smoosh and have no bike riding capabilities.  I started with training wheels, but somehow my parents decided they weren’t into the follow through on that.  We moved, my bike got rusty, and…here I am.  They never even got my sister anything other than a tricycle.  She learned how to ride from a friend two years ago, but she said it might be harder for me because I’m taller, and I have farther to fall.  I am under the impression that falling hurts (people tell me this and I believe them), so I just drive or walk.  Maybe someday I’ll tackle the bike thing.  Maybe.

I’m pretty scaredy when it comes to riding a bike. I’ve realized that the only way I’ll ride a bike is if it’s short enough, or if the seat is low enough for me to put BOTH my feet on the ground while still having my butt firmly on the seat. and no dismounts for me when I stop at a light. that butt stays glued to the seat.

it drives my biker friends nuts, but it gives me enough security to allow me to ride.

I also like those bikes with the really low step through, so I don’t have to lose my balance every time i swing my leg over to get on.

you’re not alone, and if you never get the hang of it, like my mom, maybe you’d like a big grown-up tricycle!




I am barely one step ahead of you – I know how to ride a bike, but I’m terrified to do so in traffic, and seeing as I live right in the middle of Washington, DC, I effectively can’t bike anywhere. Yes, we’ve got bike lanes all over the place, and DC traffic doesn’t hold a candle to NY, but still. Cars. Moving fast. Terrifying. There are trails and stuff, but to get to them, you have to go through traffic! What is the point!?

I would love to live somewhere that’s genuinely bike-friendly, because at this point, it’s pretty much like I don’t even know how to ride.

I used to ride all the time as a child, and used the training wheels until they literally would not fit on my bike anymore. I biked until I was ten, without training wheels, at which time I drove into a pricker bush.

When I moved to Denmark, I decided to try it again. And the handlebars are too low and the seat is too high and I don’t know what’s going on and I keep falling off.

This is why I hate the expression, “it’s just like riding a bike.”

No, it’s not.

I still can’t do things I always think of as the staple of childhood – like a cartwheel. One of my uncles couldn’t swim til he was 30.

Good on you for trying – and it’s a great excuse for a holiday to the Netherlands… cycling paradise:)

I learnt how to cycle in The Netherlands! I was 21 and had just moved there to au pair. My first bike was a heavy old-fashioned monster without brakes (I had to reverse pedal to stop). I thought I’d never learn to ride a bike after I crashed into a tree (damn thing just jumped out at me) but then a friend let me ride her newer, lighter bike, which had actual brakes. So I rushed back to my host family and asked, pretty please, for a different bike…and I never looked back.

Cycling in The Netherlands is the best. Here in South Africa I’m too afraid to cycle. Drivers pretty much don’t care about cyclists and there are very few cycling lanes. And where I live every street is on an incline so I’d either be huffing and puffing up a hill, or racing screaming down a hill. *shudder*

We taught my dad to swim when he was in his 40s (he’s still terrible), and my best friend couldn’t until, like, two years ago. When I was in New Zealand recently, I did this underground rafting thing and when I said I was Irish, the guy immediately asked if I could swim. I said of course I could, and he replied that at least a third of the Irish people he’d taken on this tour couldn’t swim. Apparently the Irish are famed for their inability to swim. So maybe your uncle isn’t so unusual!

He definitely wasn’t where he grew up – none of his siblings were taught either! I suppose if I’d been his mother I wouldn’t’ve been too enthusiastic about taking eight kids to the swimming pool…

(did you do the tubing/glowworm thing?)

OH MAH GOODNESS someone else who’s a proper adult and doesn’t know how to ride a bike!  My dad had a different take on training wheels: rather than starting them level with the main wheel (so there’s four wheels in contact with the ground at all times) and then raising them once I got hte hang of is for some stability with the inevitable wobbliness, my dad went straight to training wheels a few inches off the ground.  I protested that this didn’t make sense, but my dad wouldn’t listen to me, so I learned to ride on a slight angle (with three wheels on the ground).  Got good at that, training wheels came off, and so did I, and after a few weeks on constant tears and frustration, I called it quits with bikes.  Now I live in a city with terrifying traffic and while I’d love to learn, the idea of cycling in the street is too daunting.

I used to have a bike. I used to ride the hell out of it. Then I got older and riding bikes was not cool any more and I spent all my time listening to music my parents didn’t approve of, reading books they didn’t know I snuck from their library and writing fantastical adventure stories.

And I haven’t gotten on a bike since. It didn’t even factor in my life until a few years ago.

I got an internship working at this magazine. A CYCLING magazine. I joked my way through the interview about having not been on a bike since last century and the editor said she’d try her damnedest to get me on one. She didn’t, but ever since I’ve been wondering if I should just get over myself, get a beach cruiser and just do it.

I figure, if I can write about cycling, I should be able to actually ride a damn bike, right?

When I was 8 I tried to go off the high dive at summer camp. I climbed up the ladder, climbed to the end of the board, and promptly climbed right back down. Several times. Until a life guard told me I needed to shit or get off the pot. And a bunch of boys were making fun of me. I totally cried.  And I never tried to jump off the high dive again.

Then when I was 20 and working as a counselor at a summer camp I took the campers to the local pool where they had a high dive.  Under the encouragement of several children who were infants, if they were even born at the time of my original high dive venture, I jumped off the high dive.  It was terrifying, but I did it and it only took me 12 years.

It’s a good lesson to learn.

Leave a Reply