I didn’t grow up in the nicest area. It’s a really nice neighborhood now, but my parents were the first wave of rehabilitating it.
This means there weren’t any other kids around. And there were people who’d take things. The year I was born our next door neighbors’ house was broken in to on Christmas Eve and their presents were taken. They moved to the burns. We stayed. Having no where I could get to on bike, I didn’t have much interest in learning. Eventually my bike (training wheels still attached) was stolen. My hippy parents never pushed anything on me, and I was more interested in a billion other things so they didn’t bother buying me another bike to ignore.
Flash forward to my early 20s. I realized that lots of cool people rode bikes and there were lots of reasons I should at least know how to do so. I enter a contest on Bicycling Magazine’s website – wrote an essay explaining I’m 24 and can’t bike.
After a month I got impatient and bought a beater bike off Craigslist. I returned home that day to find out I’d won a new bike. Two bikes in one day!
The bike I won is a Raleigh Coasting cruiser. Trying to find info about it to reference, I see that Oprah gave it out during one show, and then this long article about why the program failed. I am exactly what Bicycling Magazine and Raleigh wanted to happen. Apparently not enough of me to keep the bike in production, but the pretty design and ease of use (no hands! Coaster breaks! Automatic Shimano shifters!) eventually hooked me.
It did take me about a year to actually be able to ride it. Some fights with the then boyfriend, a very bruised crotch and self esteem, and a lot of giving up and restarting. I live next to the best urban bike path in the country. The next summer I’d walk my bike down to the trail and practice early weekday afternoons when it was quietest and slowly mastered balance and propulsion.
I started only biking in protected bike lanes, slowly adding bike lanes on streets, quiet side streets, and eventually busy streets to my repertoire.