My husband pumps up my bike tires – we are going to meander around our new neighborhood, let me get a feel for riding again, and check out the houses and backyard pools. With the exception of a couple times, I haven’t been on my bike for over 8 years!
One of the things I’ve struggled with during and after depression is balance. I’m not talking about managing my routine and getting things done, saying “yes” when I should and “no” when I should, keeping my level of commitment and tasks to a reasonable level. While that’s still an area I need to improve upon, I’m talking about actual physical balance. Riding a bike. Standing on one foot. Walking a straight line quickly, or toe-to-toe. I have to s-l-o-w-l-y pick my way across tree roots when walking in the woods. I always hold onto the railing walking down the stairs. I might even pause on the second-to-last step just to make sure I know where my feet are!
So I get on my bike – isn’t this seat a little high? I can’t touch the ground with my foot! Chris reminds me that was what I had asked for – to sit up tall instead of hunched over, which hurts my back. Oh yeah.
I have a comfort bike, so the handle bars are straight, the seat is a little wider (hehe), the down tube curves gently. You’d half expect to see a basket on the back with a little dog named Toto poking out. When the kids were younger and we would ride on a bike trail, they’d tease me with the tune “Deedle-de-de De Deee De.” I’m not a green wicked witch, and I like my comfort bike!
Anyway, back to the story. So I get on my bike and ride -with a wobble- out of the garage, where I lean forward, and drop my feet to stop so my husband can close the garage door. The bike pedals hit the back of my legs, and the seat pokes me in the butt. Ouch! But I’m ok. Let’s ride.
Chris calls out, “Do you remember how to shift?”
“Yep.” What I don’t remember is how to stop! I mention this – in a slightly panicky voice – as he pulls alongside me. So he tells me what to do. Slow down, coast, brake gently, and just hop up and off with one leg to the ground. I do that, but not gracefully. And I grip the brakes so hard that they squeal and the bike hits me from behind again. Not too bad, except that it hurts!
Our bike outing goes from a casual ride to a lesson in stopping. I’m not looking at any houses, I’m rehearsing the steps required to stop. This “cycle” repeats itself multiple times. Each time, he gives me another pointer: don’t use your right hand to brake – those are the front ones and if you hit them too hard, you’ll tumble over the top of the bike. Downshift as you’re slowing. Have one foot parallel with the ground as you step off the opposite pedal. Don’t brake so hard. Just hop off. Good job. Not bad. Not quite. Perfect that time.
At one point, he pulls alongside as we’re riding and tells me that it’s hard to describe how to stop – he just does it.
Did I mention that he rides his bike a lot? Including regular biking trips to the mecca of the mountain bike world – Moab, UT. Trails like SlickRock, The Whole Enchilada, Poison Spider. Mountains in Nevada, single-track trails in northern WI. He knows what he’s doing. I really don’t.
We ride along, and I say I’m going to stop. It takes me 20 seconds just to think it through. There are a lot of steps to stopping! Then I either screech the brakes, or apply them gently, and I start to get the hang of it. Mostly. Kinda.
Now it’s lightly raining, so we decide to head home. I turn the corner onto our street. There are three people there, one with a very long set of clippers, for cutting branches off the tall Palm trees. He starts across the road – doesn’t look to see if anyone is there until he’s in the middle of the street. Meanwhile, I panic. Can’t remember a thing, so I grab my brakes with each hand, screech loudly, the bike jerks hard, but not to a complete stop. The guy jumps. I shout “Sorry!” and keep riding. My husband apologizes for my lack of courtesy – says something like, “She couldn’t stop, sorry.”
He comes up beside me and says perhaps we should practice again tomorrow. I need to know what to do. I can’t panic and stop thinking if there’s a car beside me or a stop sign up ahead or a piece of wood in the road. I need to practice so that I can be safe. So I don’t have to think about it. So I can stop quickly and smoothly without getting hurt, or hurting anyone else.
As we pull into the driveway, I come to a stop and get off my bike – almost a perfect stop. And I’m thinking about the amazing man I’ve married. He’s so patient with me. He gives good instruction and encouragement and praise. He wants me to be safe. He never laughs at me, or gets frustrated teaching me the same thing over and over. He looks out for me. He lets me try. We’ve been married 27.5 years, and I love him like crazy!
Happy Birthday honey! 🚲🚲